NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s emphasis on player safety is borne in part of a fear that a high-impact collision will cause a player to die on the field.
That’s what friends of Goodell’s told Don Van Natta Jr., who wrote a lengthy profile of Goodell for ESPN the Magazine. Goodell frequently speaks about how President Theodore Roosevelt saved the sport of football in the early 20th Century by insisting on reforms after several college players died, and Goodell now hopes that his own reforms can prevent an NFL player from dying today.
“He’s terrified of it,” an unnamed Hall of Fame player who speaks regularly with Goodell said. “It wouldn’t just be a tragedy. It would be awfully bad for business.”
Goodell declined interview requests for the ESPN the Magazine profile, but the comments of his friends suggest that fears of the very worst-case scenario motivate much of his focus on making the game safer.