Only days short of his 58th birthday, Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell has become a real-life billboard for the wear and tear of a lifetime of football. Of any former players, then, Campbell should appreciate efforts to make the game safer.
Campbell has become the latest current or former ball carrier to complain about the new restriction on the things a player can do while carrying the ball. He joined CSN Houston to discuss the situation.
“No. 1, I think football is a very physical game, no doubt,” Campbell said. “And I think we learn that when we’re young. But I think with the NFL changing that rule it’s not going to be good at all. I think at some point you gotta say ‘stop’ and let football be football.”
Campbell fears he would have been suspended while playing, if he’d played under the current rules. “I played football with my whole body,” Campbell said. “My hands, my head, my face. I did it all.”
Campbell also pointed to his violent helmet to the gut of Rams linebacker Isaiah Robertson as something Campbell wouldn’t have been allowed to do.
“I know I wouldn’t have lasted,” Campbell said, “because that’s how I play football. . . . I agree with the legendary Jack Lambert. . . . He said the quarterback is gonna end up wearing a dress. And that’s taking away from football. I did not think I would live long enough to see that happen. But he’s right. They keep changing and keep changing. I think what they ought to do if they really want to change it all up, give guys like we started football in elementary [school], flag football, and everybody will know not to bump into nobody.”
Campbell arguably can blame these developments on his peers who have sued the NFL, if the league’s ongoing changes are truly motivated by avoiding future litigation. The more accurate interpretation could be that the league is trying to maintain the flow of football players from the pee wee ranks to pro level.
Without efforts to make the game safer, that may be hard to do in an age of advanced medical knowledge and aggressive helicopter parenting.