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Rodgers wants “risk-reward” conversation over playing on Sunday

Rodgers AP

It’s been six weeks and two days since Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers fractured a collarbone.  With the team now two wins away from an unlikely (given the 0-4-1 run right after Rodgers exited) NFC North crown, Rodgers seems to be more intent than ever on playing when the Steelers come to town on Sunday.

At a minimum, Rodgers is finally speaking the language that gets to the root of the balance that team doctors are trying to strike.

“I think there has to be on some level a risk-reward conversation,” Rodgers said during his weekly radio spot on ESPN Milwaukee, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  “You have to base that on the evidence you see on the scan, but also how I’m feeling and if I’m able to do normal football movements without pain.  That obviously goes into the equation.”

Rodgers is right.  The reward becomes qualifying for a playoff berth and chasing a championship, with the collarbone getting more and more healthy each and every week.  The risk, apparently, arises from the possibility of breaking the collarbone again, possibly badly enough to require surgery.

Whatever the risk, that’s the discussion Rodgers and Dr. Pat McKenzie need to have.  After decades of teams bullying (subtly or otherwise) doctors into letting players play, Dr. McKenzie seems to have gone the other way, protecting a grown man from consciously accepting the possibility that the collarbone could break again.

It’s hard not to wonder whether the situation would be different if the Packers had a traditional owner — someone who ultimately held the keys to the car and who would be tempted to push his underlings to push the doctor to let Rodgers play if he wants to play, and to explore finding a different doctor who possibly would provide a different opinion.

Dr. McKenzie’s willingness to protect Rodgers is admirable.  Not enough team doctors have, over the years, put the interests of their player-patients over the importance of keeping happy the entity that has the power and funds to find a new doctor.  But as the Packers compete for a playoff berth, it’s hard not to wonder how many other teams would allow a doctor to trump the wishes of a player who understands the risk and who is willing to accept it.

Regardless, Rodgers seems to be moving closer to taking a stand.

“Sometimes those guys have to save you from yourself,” Rodgers said.  “Doc and I always have had a close relationship and an honest relationship.  I think he trusts me on how I’m feeling.  It doesn’t mean I’m not going to battle him.”

At some point, it’s a battle that the franchise quarterback will win.  Every play of every NFL game entails risk of injury.  If Rodgers understands what could happen if the collarbone breaks again and accepts that enhanced risk, he should be allowed to make the final decision.

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Eagles cut oft-injured linebacker Travis Long

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 08: James Brown #78 of the Chicago Bears knocks down Travis Long #57 of the Philadelphia Eagles during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 8, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Eagles 34-28. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are players who have come back from multiple torn ACLs to play, and even play at a high level.

But if Travis Long is doing it, it won’t be in Philadelphia.

The Eagles announced they had released the fourth-year linebacker this morning, leaving an open roster spot.

Long had torn his right ACL in college and his left one twice in the NFL, making his chances slim anyway. Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has pulled it off, but for most players, that’s too much to overcome.

The Eagles may have just needed another linebacker at camp, since Nigel Bradham was just arrested for allegedly breaking a bottle over a cabana boy’s head, though Bradham is expected to report to camp today.

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Jaguars tackle Luke Joeckel has chip on shoulder after trying offseason

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 28:  Luke Joeckel #76 of the Jacksonville Jaguars watches the action during the preseason NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons at EverBank Field on August 28, 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not only did the Jaguars not pick up the option on left tackle Luke Joeckel’s contract this offseason, they also went out and signed a potential replacement and tried the former No. 2 overall pick at a new position.

So yeah, he’s walking into camp this week with a little something to prove.

“I feel the healthiest, strongest and fastest I’ve ever felt,” Joeckel said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “I have a lot of confidence going into this training camp.

“And then there’s a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, and that makes a difference, too.”

Of course, the fiscal and personnel moves the Jaguars made were partly because of his own play, as Joeckel struggled at times last year. So any lack of confidence in their left tackle would be justified, even if the numbers weren’t so high.

But by not picking up his 2017 option (for $11.9 million) and by signing former Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum in free agency, Joeckel was immediately put on notice. The snaps they gave him at left guard should have then made it clear nothing was going to be handed to him.

“You always try to play with some kind of chip,” Joeckel said. “But this one is different. Going from high school and right into college as a true freshman, there was definitely competition, but I’ve started every game I’ve played in football. I want to keep that going.”

He said he’s not thinking about moving to guard, that he wants to compete for the job he’s held. And with Beachum recovered from last year’s ACL tear, he’s expected to be there to compete from the start of camp as well.

That will give Joeckel a chance to re-establish himself, as well as his market as he enters a contract year.

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Adam Gase interested in how Arian Foster can “grow the running back position”

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 08: Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans rushes against the Indianapolis Colts in the second quarter on October 8, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins have added veteran Arian Foster to their offensive backfield in a move that sets up a competition for playing time at running back with Jay Ajayi.

Foster is coming off a torn Achilles and will need to pass a conditioning test to be on the field when training camp kicks off on Friday, something coach Adam Gase didn’t seem overly concerned about on Tuesday. Gase said they spent a lot of time with Foster before signing him and has faith in the training and conditioning staffs to have Foster in good form.

Assuming he is, the team will begin figuring out how to deploy him and Ajayi. Ajayi was the subject of much optimistic chatter from Gase this offseason and the coach says now that playing time will sort itself out, although he seems intrigued about what Foster can bring to the offense as both a runner and receiver.

“He’s the type of guy that he can run his route tree similar to what a wide receiver’s is,” Gase said, via the Miami Herald. “He runs about as smooth as any running back that I’ve ever seen. I’ll be interested to see how far we can grow the running back position with him.”

Foster’s readiness to play is the first big question that has to be answered in Miami. If the answer is that he’s good to go, it appears he’ll be given every chance to grab the No. 1 spot.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 03:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills acknowledges the crowd after the Bills beat the New York Jets 22-17 at Ralph Wilson Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Can the Bills count on Tyrod Taylor to play like a franchise QB?

Can the Dolphins count on LB Kiko Alonso to stay healthy?

Don’t expect Bill Belichick to change the game plans much during Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.

There’s more talk in New York that the Jets may be Geno Smith’s team, not Ryan Fitzpatrick’s.

Bengals RB Gio Bernard did a good deed.

The Steelers’ defense is trying to catch up to the offense.

Ravens OT Stephane Nembot grew up trapping antelope and giraffes in Cameroon.

Former Browns WR Reggie Rucker, who admits he stole from nonprofit organizations, says he’ll use money from a concussion lawsuit settlement to pay back his theft.

The Texans gave undrafted rookie Ra’Zahn Howard a $5,000 signing bonus.

Colts QB Andrew Luck says he’s ready to go.

Jaguars OT Luke Joeckel has a chip on his shoulder.

The promise of a better run game should be good news for the Titans’ offense.

The Broncos want the rookies in their secondary to know that they can’t get away with playing like typical rookies.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid is showing his admiration for the late Dennis Green.

Here’s a look at the tight end position heading into Raiders camp.

Says Chargers RB Danny Woodhead, “I’m as healthy as I’ve been in a long time.”

The Cowboys are expecting LB Rolando McClain at camp, despite his looming 10-game suspension.

Giants WR Odell Beckham worked out with LeBron James.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson is getting credit for hiring Jim Schwartz as his defensive coordinator.

An anonymous donor is paying for the funeral of the famous Washington fan who went by the name Chief Zee.

Devin Hester will be remembered as a Bear, even though he spent the last two years in Atlanta.

Anquan Boldin and TJ Jones may compete to be the Lions’ No. 3 receiver.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy still has work to do.

The NFL may say it opposes gambling, but it’s not stopping the the Minnesota Lottery from starting a new Vikings scratch game.

Falcons RB Tevin Coleman will get the first shot to be the team’s kick returner.

Panthers training camp will be in the mid-90s and humid.

The Saints already had a young receiving corps, and it got younger when the oldest receiver on the team, Vincent Brown, was placed on injured reserve.

Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy says QB Jameis Winston is growing as a leader.

The Rams’ rookies are going back to school.

The 49ers may not be convinced that OT Anthony Davis is fully committed to football.

Cardinals DB Tyrann Mathieu doesn’t expect to be on the PUP list for long.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider are continuing their strong working relationship.

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NFL, NFLPA establish a Field Surface and Performance Committee

501238444 Getty Images

Buried at the bottom of Monday’s joint league-union press release announcing a new procedure for enforcing the concussion protocol was a list of other agreements reached by the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com noticed one that otherwise has gone unnoticed. Here’s the key language from the release: “This offseason the NFL and NFLPA established the Field Surface & Performance Committee, a joint committee to provide advice and guidance regarding the safety, performance and testing of non-NFL game day and practice surfaces. The new committee will perform research and advise the parties on injury prevention, improved testing methods, and the adoption of tools and techniques to evaluate and improve field surface performance and playability.”

King notes that, as part of the agreement, the NFLPA’s designated field consultant “will be granted equal access to all NFL playing fields and field test results,” which expressly includes “non-traditional venues (e.g., London, Mexico City, Hall of Fame Game).”

The union has been concerned for several years about the quality of the playing surfaces, but the union hasn’t had an equal seat at the table. It now does.

The agreement extends beyond the actual playing surface, which as Reggie Bush learned the hard way in St. Louis last year can create separate problems. By the eighth game of the 2016 season (and ideally sooner), all stadiums hosting NFL games must have “standard safety wall padding and a surface surrounding the field that is safe for players.”

It’s unclear why Monday’s press release didn’t make a bigger deal of this agreement, which arguably is as significant as the development of a joint procedure for enforcing the concussion protocol. At a time when a perception exists that the league and the union can’t get along, any evidence that they are putting their differences aside and working together for the best interest of players should be trumpeted loudly, so that the media, fans, and especially the players know what’s happening.

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Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews haven’t talked to NFL yet about allegations

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 3: Outside linebacker Julius Peppers #56 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after a sack during the third quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 3, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images) Getty Images

The two Packers players implicated in the Al Jazeera report about performance-enhancing drugs didn’t say too much Tuesday as they reported to camp, beyond the fact they haven’t talked to the NFL and didn’t think much of the allegations, to begin with.

(Then again, the fact they talked at all probably qualifies Green Bay’s media relations staff for an award.)

But Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews were short on specifics of the investigation, saying they were trusting the guidance of the NFL Players Association at the moment, and not talking to the league.

I’m letting the PA handle that,” Peppers said, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Probably will, but don’t really know the details of the process at this moment.”

Matthews was more expressive but followed the same path, saying he didn’t know what he could tell investigators beyond the fact the claims they were delivered banned substances from an anti-aging clinic weren’t true.

“I have no idea,” Matthews said when asked what information he could provide. “We asked the same questions [to them]. Maybe it’s to conduct a formal investigation. I don’t know.

“It’s annoying, there’s no doubt about that.”

The initial claims have been recanted by the guy who made them, and retired Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has already been cleared by the league — though the NFLPA pointed out that as a former union member, Manning didn’t fall under their auspices and was free to proceed with the NFL as he wished.

“It sets a dangerous precedent, but at the same time, I get it, they have a job to do,” Matthews said of the league’s investigation. “But now I’m — and some of these other guys — are in kind of in a whirlwind of controversy. If it was up to me this thing would be behind us a long time ago.”

The league still wanted to interview current players as they came to training camp, but at a time when the NFL and NFLPA are agreeing at record pace, they don’t seem to have quite come to a compromise on this one.

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Colin Kaepernick cleared by doctors following shoulder surgery

Colin Kaepernick, Courtney Upshaw AP

Now that “heck of a competition” at quarterback can truly begin.

According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been fully cleared to participate in practice after offseason shoulder surgery.

Kaepernick flew to Vail, Colo., yesterday to meet with Dr. Peter Millett, who performed the surgery. There, he went through a series of tests including some on-field work, and Kaepernick apparently passed. He also had work done on his right thumb and left knee this offseason, getting the bulk rate.

He’ll have his team physical Saturday when players report to training camp, with the first practice Sunday.

Then he’ll have a chance to compete for his old job with Blaine Gabbert, who had the head start in impressing new 49ers coach Chip Kelly.

“All I’ve heard is that Chip has told me it’s going to be a competition, . . . and to come in and be ready to compete,” Kaepernick said in June. “That’s my mindset, and I’m excited to do that.”

Of course, he wasn’t excited about everything this offseason, specifically when trade talks with Denver broke down because he wouldn’t take a pay cut.

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Jared Cook uncertain on timeline for return from foot surgery

Jared Cook, Rashad Johnson AP

Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook was placed on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp after having “preventative” surgery in June on his ailing foot.

According to Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Cook is still uncertain when he’ll be able to get back to practice with the Packers.

However, the surgery was minor and isn’t expected to hinder his availability for the start of the season.

No, it wasn’t anything serious,” Cook said. “It was just, they didn’t want it to prolong and something happen later on down the road in season….I’d just rather be safe than sorry.”

But in joining a new teams, Cook will be missing valuable time to build a relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Cook missed the end of the offseason program due to the surgery and will have fewer days to build chemistry with Rodgers before the start of the regular season.

“Whether we’re in a new system or not,” Cook said, “you want to be out there on the field. That’s where you have the most fun. That’s what you’re basically bred to do. It’s not fun being separated from everybody and doing special drills to get you back. You want to be out there having fun with your teammates, but it’s just something I have to endure now so later on it’ll be better.”

The Packers hope the addition of Cook can add a second option at tight end to pair with Richard Rodgers.

Cook appeared in all 16 games with the St. Louis Rams last season. He caught 39 passes for 481 yards but did not find the end zone for the first time since his rookie season with Tennessee.

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Titans sign OL Will Campbell

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 2:  A Tennessee Titans helmet displays the Futbol Americano logo during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at The Coliseum on October 2, 2005 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Colts defeated the Titans 31-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans signed offensive lineman Will Campbell Tuesday.

A sixth-round pick of the Jets in 2013, Campbell, 25, has never played in a regular season NFL game. A four-year contributor as a defensive lineman at the University of Michigan, Campbell made the Jets’ roster in 2013 but spent the year transitioning from defensive line to offensive line.

He spent much of 2014 on the Bills’ practice squad and has also spent time with the Packers.

The signing of Campbell puts the Titans’ roster at 89, one short of the preseason max of 90. The Titans open full training camp on Saturday.

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Andrew Luck declares himself to be 100 percent, sets sights on Super Bowl

andrew-luck-beard-shot Getty Images

For the Colts, the 2015 season was a mess. For quarterback Andrew Luck, it was even more of a mess.

With camp opening, Luck told reporters that he’s 100 percent after multiple injuries last year, included a lacerated kidney. Entering 2016, Luck made it clear that he and the rest of the team have a chip on their shoulder.

“Yeah, I think so,” Luck said regarding whether the team has an edge this year. “I think so.”

Like every team, Indy’s goal is to get to the Super Bowl. “And win that game,” Luck added.

That’s a long way away, but the foundation for a successful season is put in place during training camp. Luck embraces that.

“Camp is awesome,” Luck told reporters. “I had a coach once explain camp is like second Christmas and it certainly feels that way. There’s an energy. There’s a buzz in the air. It’s great to see all the guys. There are some new faces absolutely. That’s sort of the nature of the NFL and there’s also some consistent faces like T.Y. Hilton, Chuck Pagano, Dwayne Allen, Anthony Castonzo, so there’s a great core group of guys on this team and integrating the new guys is always a big deal for the offseason and training camp.”

What about camp makes it so awesome?

“That it’s ball all day,” Luck said. “You don’t really have to think about anything. You can wear the same clothes, you know, two weeks in a row and no one is going to judge you unless you start smelling and then someone tells you, ‘You smell.'”

Last year, the Colts smelled bad. This year, the goal is to turn that stink into something that smells a lot more like napalm in the morning.

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Jimmy Smith to be inducted into the “Pride of the Jaguars”

i Getty Images

As the Jaguars begin their 22nd NFL season, they will be adding a sixth person to the “Pride of the Jaguars.” The next name on the list will be receiver Jimmy Smith. It’s an honor reserved to those who have made the biggest contributions to the franchise.

I’m definitely proud and emotional right now,” Smith said Tuesday morning, via Jaguars.com, who got the call informing him of the decision from owner Shad Khan. “It was a 217 area code. I started not to pick up the phone because I usually don’t answer numbers I don’t know. It was Shad Khan, and I knew right then. My heart started beating fast and I couldn’t catch my breath. He said, ‘Jimmy, this is Shad Khan with the Jacksonville Jaguars . . . .”

Smith joins Tony Boselli, Fred Taylor, Mark Brunell, and former owners Wayne and Delores Weaver as the members of the team’s most exclusive group of honorees.

The 1992 second-round pick of the Cowboys became an original Jaguar in 1995, spending 11 seasons with the team. He caught 862 passes for 12,287 yards and 67 touchdowns.

Smith won’t be insisting on the exclusive club remaining small. He already is lobbying for former Jaguars receiver Keenan McCardell and former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin to be added to the group.

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Report: Seahawks extend Pete Carroll through 2019

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 17:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks looks on prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on January 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

General Manager John Schneider signed an extension with the Seahawks over the weekend and, as expected, his partnership with coach Pete Carroll won’t be ending any time soon.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Seahawks and Carroll have agreed to an extension that puts Carroll under contract in Seattle through 2019. Carroll and Schneider both joined the Seahawks in 2010 and their record leaves little reason to wonder why the Seahawks will keep everything in place.

The team has gone 60-36 under Carroll in the regular season and 8-4 in the playoffs. The latter record includes their Super Bowl XLVIII title, their run back to the game the next year and at least one playoff win in each of the last four seasons.

There’s no word on the financial terms of the deal, but Carroll was already among the best-paid coaches in the league. His new deal will keep him there and keep him in Seattle through at least his 68th birthday if all goes according to plan.

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Report: Kurt Coleman set to sign extension

Kurt Coleman AP

The Panthers and safety Kurt Coleman have agreed on a three-year extension that Coleman will sign Wednesday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.

Coleman had a career-best seven interceptions last season, and the new deal rewards Coleman for the work he did last season as under the radar signing who became a productive player on one of the league’s best defenses.

Coleman, 28, was a seventh-round pick of the Eagles in 2010. He played four years with the Eagles and one with the Chiefs before joining the Panthers last season.

After starting just three games in 2013-14, Coleman started all 15 games he played for the Panthers last season. He was a full-time starter in 2011-12 for the Eagles but started just thee of 15 games he played for the Chiefs before signing a two-year deal with the Panthers in March 2015.

Coleman has 17 career interceptions and had his first career sack last season.

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As expected, Joe Haden starts camp on PUP

Marcus Mariota, Joe Haden, Craig Robertson AP

Browns cornerback Joe Haden was placed on active/physically unable to perform Tuesday, an expected move before the team opens full training camp on Friday.

Haden, a two-time Pro Bowler, had offseason ankle surgery and was mostly a spectator for the team’s spring workouts.

Various injuries limited Haden to five games last season, and he had ankle surgery in March. Haden, 27, has started 68 of 77 career games and has 16 career interceptions.

The Browns also announced that rookie tight end Seth DeValve would be placed on active/PUP and that first-year offensive lineman Conor Boffelli would be placed on the active/non-football injury list. Reinstated wide receiver Josh Gordon was also placed on active/NFI.

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NHL Commissioner declines to admit link between concussions and CTE

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during the 2016 NHL Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Football has become synonymous with concussions and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. However, other sports have found themselves embroiled in political and legal fights regarding head injuries and long-term health consequences.

In hockey, the Commissioner of the NHL has declined to admit a link between concussions and CTE. In response to written questions from Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Gary Bettman stressed that the medical research remains in an early phase and argued that lawyers and the media have presumed a connection and other medical facts without sufficient scientific support.

“The science regarding CTE, including on the asserted ‘link’ to concussions that you reference, remains nascent, particularly with respect to what causes CTE and whether it can be diagnosed by specific clinical symptoms,” Bettman wrote, via the New York Times. “The relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown.”

As explained by John Branch of the Times, Bettman “repeatedly blamed the media for spreading the fear of CTE, and accused the plaintiffs in the concussion case for a public relations assault on the topic.” Bettman pointed out that the brain of former NHL player Todd Ewen, who committed suicide in 2015 at the age of 49, did not show signs of CTE.

“Ultimately, the most concerning aspect of the current public dialogue about concussions in professional sports (as well as youth sports) is the implicit premise that hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of individuals who have participated in contact sports at the high school, collegiate and/or professional levels are not only at a high level of risk for, but actually more than likely to develop, a degenerative, irreversible brain disease (i.e., CTE), and that they should be informed as such,” Bettman wrote. “The NHL chooses to be guided on this very serious subject by the medical consensus of experts examining the science, not the media hype driven in part by plaintiffs’ counsel.”

Regardless of the science, it’s obviously not beneficial for the human brain to absorb repeated injuries. Bettman’s letter, which if written by the Commissioner of the NFL would surely result in much greater attention and criticism, echoes a point that many have made: The scientific research still has a long way to go regarding questions like the prevalence of CTE, the causes of CTE, the symptoms of CTE, and the consequences of CTE.

Plenty of former pro football and hockey players believe that serious cognitive problems for them are not simply possible but inevitable; the medical evidence has yet to reach that point. Regardless of the specific nature and degree of the risk and the specific nature and extent of the potential harm, it’s known that head injuries should be taken seriously, and it’s assumed that too many of them can lay the foundation for long-term health problems.

Even with that knowledge, people are still choosing to engage in sports and other activities that entail a risk of head trauma. At some point, the medical evidence will provide much greater information about the long-term health risks. For now, the vague-but-generally-accepted (and by all appearances accurate) notion that concussions can cause cognitive problems later in life is not deterring many adults with the physical gifts necessary to play professional sports from doing so.

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