In Peter King’s excellent season-launching Monday Morning Quarterback column, he cross-promotes an item from his Sports Illustrated roundtable discussion with multiple franchise quarterbacks. (How shameless. And speaking of franchise quarterbacks, CFT has an update on Sam Bradford’s shoulder.)
Said Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer at one point during the conversation: “The truth of the matter is . . . somebody is going to die here in the NFL. It’s going to happen.”
Per King, the group consisting of Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, and Aaron Rodgers got “very quiet” in response to that comment.
Eventually, Palmer explained himself.
“Guys are getting so big, so fast, so explosive,’' Palmer said. “The
game’s so violent. Now that they’re cutting out the wedge deal on
kickoff returns, those guys [are] coming free, and at some point
somebody is going to die in football. And I hope it’s not anyone at
this table, and I hope it doesn’t happen, obviously. Everyone talks
about the good old days, when guys were tough and quarterbacks got
crushed all the time, but back in the day, there weren’t defensive ends
that were Mario Williams -- 6-7, 300 pounds, 10 percent body fat, running a 4.7 40.”
Though the worst-case scenario can happen to anyone in the NFL, quarterbacks likely are the least at risk because of the rules aimed at protecting them, and because the hits they take entail less momentum, given that they aren’t moving at full speed in the opposite direction when the impact occurs.
The worst-case scenario will happen when two guys moving at maximum velocity crash their bodies together at, for one of them, an angle and position that shatters the bones around the top of the spine and severs the cord that those bones protect.
And, yes, at some point in the future, it will happen.
Still, that doesn’t make the game unsafe. The equipment and techniques have come a long way since the days that long hair served as the closest thing to a helmet.
There always has been, and always will be, an element of risk for anyone who plays football. The men who play in the NFL are compensated well for taking that risk. The real tragedies occur at the levels of the sport where young men lose their lives to a game they play for free.