Has the NFL let its guard down?



As if the NFL did not have enough problems to deal with from all the lawsuits they face from current and former players, now the NFL Players Association is suing them for $3 billion claiming collusion from 2010 during the NFL’s lockout by league owners. And there’s the troubling question of whether parents should let their children play football at all.

With the NFL “Bounty-gate” scandal involving the targeted violence by New Orleans from 2009-2011, the league suspended the Saints’ general manager, head coach, defensive coordinator and assistants, and four players.

The recent suicide deaths of former players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson have stunned many and raised questions. More than 2,000 former players are suing the NFL alleging they were not warned about long-term risks of concussions when they were playing.

If the suits are successful in court, will players then sue their colleges? Like Texas, Ohio State, Alabama, USC, Notre Dame, Florida, Michigan, LSU, Oklahoma and others? After all, the players were not born in the NFL! They were drafted or signed out of college where they played football well enough to be considered.

The issue of mental health for players coming into the league and those that have finished is also a real concern and has been for a long time. Since 13 percent of all groups of people suffer with some form of mental health issue, and they are not all athletes, this is an issue that the NFL may have not have taken into serious consideration.

Last week the NFL, in and attempt to move closer to improving players safety, will make it mandatory in 2013 for players to wear hip, knee, and thigh pads again. Now that’s a good thing — whose decision was it in the first place for players to stop wearing them?

For the sake of style, fashion and speed, many players over the years have just simply stopped wearing hip, knee and thigh pads. And the league did not object, obviously. The NFL also has allowed players to gradually stop or get away from wearing shoulder pads. If you look closely at most players today in the NFL, they are wearing the smaller quarterback shoulder pads. Everybody knows the league protects quarterbacks from hits by allowing them to throw the ball away once outside of the pocket.

Quarterback pads are much smaller, so the players’ linemen —linebackers and skill position players — stop using the better, bigger, normal shoulder pads. It has made a big difference; players have used their heads and hands more grabbing on tackles and blocks.

Offensive linemen are doing more pushing than blocking. The helmets are well protected, but because the players subconsciously know the shoulders are not as protected they have avoided tackling and blocking with their shoulders. When you hit someone with your body, you hit them with what’s protected!

Now that the issue of safety has become a hot-button topic, the NFL needs to get back to basics and demand the players totally protect themselves.

Players have stopped playing from behind their pads. The NFL has to get back to enforcing the rules and making players wear normal-sized shoulder pads, not the smaller, stylish quarterback shoulder pads.


Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com. PHOTO: Krause-Singletary.JPG