Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman retired in 2001 in part because of the concussions he had suffered on the field.
But while Aikman says he appreciates the NFL putting an added emphasis on player safety, he worries that the league is taking things too far.
“I think that it’s good that there is this attention to it, and I like that the NFL is stepping out and trying to find ways to keep these injuries from occurring — I think that’s all positive,” Aikman said today on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption. “But the game of football is very violent. And I’m one of those, as a former quarterback, who has felt that maybe the rules have gotten a little bit too far already in terms of protecting quarterbacks.
“I don’t know how you teach a defensive lineman to sack the quarterback, and that’s an inherent part of being a successful defensive lineman. I don’t know how you tell a safety who’s trying to drive on a football and break up a pass how not to lead with your head.”
Aikman said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s new policy on when players can return to the field after suffering a concussion is a much more sensible way of making the game safer than imposing more penalties on defensive players.
“It makes perfect sense to me,” Aikman said about the new policy, announced Wednesday. “I think it’s probably something that should have been in place long ago and I applaud the steps the NFL has taken for player safety.”
Still, Aikman said monitoring players with concussions is very difficult, because players sometimes lie about how they’re feeling after suffering concussions because they want to be tough. And Aikman said players admire teammates who play hurt.
“The only way to gain the respect of your teammates is to show them that you’re willing to go out there and play with injury,” Aikman said.
Ultimately, Aikman believes that playing football will never be completely safe, and that’s just something players will have to accept.
“At some point I think players have to understand that there are certain risks that are involved and if you decide that you want to go out and play football then you’ve got to understand that part of that means you’re going to break some bones and you may have some head injuries,” Aikman said. “But if you try to eliminate all of those things then we’re no longer playing football.”