SBD/February 3, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Goodell: NFL Is Increasing Safety, Stressing Fundamentals To Decrease Concussions

Brainscope is among the finalists for a Head Health Challenge grant
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday prior to Super Bowl XLVIII said increasing player safety in the game is "part of the culture change" that is going on around the sport, and the league is trying to "get back to fundamentals." During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace," Goodell said, "The game is inherently tough, but it is played with fundamentals that involve using the shoulders and the arms to tackle and taking the head out of it. What we saw was a trend towards using the head. The helmet should not be used as a weapon, it’s there for protection. So we want to get back to using proper techniques that are safer for our players. They send the right message to the younger players whether in college, high school or youth football, and that’s why we’re working on programs even at the youth level. ... It’s called the Heads Up Program. Keep your head up and you're head out. That’s a smarter way to play the game and a better way to play the game” ("Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace," 2/2). NBC's Tony Dungy said the NFL needs to increase its concussion screening process and the importance of players reporting a possible concussion. He said, "That is one of the things I know the NFL has really worked on, getting guys to report it, getting more people looking at them and making sure that when a player does have a concussion, that it is dealt with and treated.” Dungy: "In my 13 years as a head coach, I never had a player tell me, ‘I don’t feel great but the doctors say I’m okay, I can go back in there.’ Now, they do tell you. We do have to work on that part of the culture, but I think we’re doing that. I think the NFL is doing things to make the game safer on all levels” ("Meet The Press," NBC, 2/2). In Chicago, Patrick Finley noted the NFL last week "cited progress in concussion prevention, but it will take more than that for the ghosts" of Dave Duerson, Junior Seau and others "to slip away silently" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/1).

WORKING WITH JUDGE ON SETTLEMENT: Goodell during his State of the League address on Friday talked about the $765M concussion settlement case and said U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody, who is presiding over the case, is “taking her time" before deciding whether the "agreement we reached is going to work the way we intend it to work.” He noted, “The No. 1 thing for us right now is to get the money in place so that we can help the players and their families, if they need it, and that is our priority" (NFL Network, 1/31). Goodell yesterday added of the lawsuit settlement, "We want to obviously have sufficient funds there -- we believe it is, both sub-parties do -- and we have to convince (Brody) of that. We have to make sure that she sees those protections. She’s being cautious, and rightfully so, and we’re going to respect her process and make sure that we answer those questions” (“Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace,” 2/2). But the N.Y. Times' Alan Schwarz said, “You can’t put a hard cap of ($765M), and it’s actually ($712M) when you cut it down. You can’t do that when you don’t know how many players there are going to be” ("Meet The Press," NBC, 2/2).

UNDERSTANDABLE CONCERNS
: The AP's John Carucci noted Pro Football HOFer Joe Namath "understands why more parents these days are reluctant to let their children play football." Namath said, "If it was my boy or my daughter, I wouldn't like to see them run into people." He added, "The NFL is doing everything they can to make it a safer game ... however, Americans and people around the world love American football because it is a game of contact" (AP, 2/2). Fox NFL analyst Daryl Johnston said that he and Goodell "will attend a Dallas summit on concussions and head trauma early this year." But Johnston noted that he is "'concerned' that there are youth leagues and schools that will not be able to afford to take similar precautions, such as when he makes sure his son is wearing the proper equipment and is playing with the proper technique" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/2). The N.Y. Times' Schwarz said, “Football is going to be just fine. They will slow down the game, make it a little less reckless, hopefully actually enforce the tackling rules that have been in place since the early ‘70’s. These kinds of things can change the sport into something that is far less dangerous” (“Meet The Press,” NBC, 2/2).
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