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After Borland retirement, NFL says football has never been safer


The retirements of Jason Worilds, Jake Locker and Patrick Willis took the NFL by surprise, but didn’t require the league to issue a statement in defense of the game of football. The retirement of Chris Borland was different.

Borland, the 49ers linebacker whose retirement at age 23 has taken everyone by surprise, felt like a more alarming incident to the NFL. And so the league has issued a statement on the matter.

The statement from Jeff Miller, the NFL senior V.P. of health and safety policy, began by showing respect for Borland before turning to a defense of the game.

“We respect Chris Borland’s decision and wish him all the best,” the statement said. “Playing any sport is a personal decision.

“By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players. Concussions in NFL games were down 25 percent last year, continuing a three-year downward trend. We continue to make significant investments in independent research to advance the science and understanding of these issues. We are seeing a growing culture of safety. Everyone involved in the game knows that there is more work to do and player safety will continue to be our top priority.”

The NFL’s claim that football has never been safer will be met with some skepticism: Players are indisputably bigger, stronger and faster than they were decades ago, so doesn’t that mean the hits they take must be harder than they were decades ago?

The flip side is that players are getting better medical treatment today, and more rules are in place to protect players from the most dangerous kinds of hits. The league’s data showing a decline in concussions is significant.

But Borland’s retirement has to worry the NFL. If it didn’t, the NFL wouldn’t have felt the need to respond.

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72 Responses to “After Borland retirement, NFL says football has never been safer”
  1. loubearkane says: Mar 17, 2015 11:13 AM

    He doesn’t want to play anymore, this has already gotten way more airtime than it should have.

  2. leatherhelmets says: Mar 17, 2015 11:14 AM

    You mean
    Football is Safe……. errrrrrr.

  3. petedutcherjr says: Mar 17, 2015 11:15 AM

    A washed up quarterback and the rest are linebackers. Could it really be a result of the league rule changes making it harder on defenses?

  4. 700levelvet says: Mar 17, 2015 11:17 AM

    It seems some fellas go to college , get an education and make life choices, unlike 60 to 70 percent of the NFL, who await future lawsuits..

  5. chalkypak says: Mar 17, 2015 11:18 AM

    And yet for someone it’s not safe enough.

  6. jimmysee says: Mar 17, 2015 11:18 AM

    Of course, “NFL” has never been run into by the likes of Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, or Eddie Lacy.

  7. jaykray says: Mar 17, 2015 11:19 AM

    They said the same thing when they first put seat belts in cars. Which means, there is a long way to go.

  8. armchairqb says: Mar 17, 2015 11:20 AM

    Borland will attend the NFL veterans’ combine in 2017. Write it down.

  9. autoriot says: Mar 17, 2015 11:21 AM

    Well, no kidding. Of course it’s ‘Safe-ER’. But ‘safer’ doesn’t mean ‘SAFE’.

    Important distinction.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

  10. DaveKShape says: Mar 17, 2015 11:21 AM

    I would say “shocker” about this, given that the NFL is pretty much clueless, but thanks to recent events, I’m surprised that the league didn’t come out and say that they’re going to start an investigation about player retirement/safety.


  11. natelan says: Mar 17, 2015 11:21 AM

    I don’t doubt that it’s ever been safer… But it’s also never been more dangerous at the same time.

    Yeah, that whole “running toward eachother and crashing at a combined 30 miles per hour”-thing is going to hurt, no matter what hat you’re wearing.

    Bravo to the kid for making a wise decision, if he felt it was necessary, then it was.

  12. docsweeney says: Mar 17, 2015 11:21 AM

    The next target for a John Oliver expose: NFL safety.

  13. happy1114 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:23 AM

    Why did the NFL lose the high school development program they had for the last few years?? Great program helping kids and coaches learn the safest techniques to play the game???

  14. bcetour says: Mar 17, 2015 11:24 AM

    Disagree. Go watch film twenty years ago vs. today. The difference in size and speed is immense. Physics wins.

    They’re either going to have to completely abolish PEDs of any kind to shrink and slow these guys down, or change the rules to such an extent that the game will barely be recognizable. Or both.

    Or just keep chucking new bodies out there at a more rapid rate when guys can’t continue.

  15. dmuehlhausen says: Mar 17, 2015 11:24 AM

    I’m sure the NFL will push this as and tie it in to why an 18 game season would be “safer” as well.

  16. bengalsfan2079 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:26 AM

    Of course they’re going to say that they’re the ones that want to convince everyone that an 18 game season is needed so they can line their pockets more. They obviously are worried about safety issues because they took the time to respond to this retirement and also have to be worried about other guys retiring as well.

  17. yesrowntreeyesgrosvener says: Mar 17, 2015 11:26 AM

    Yeah, okay. We’ll see how many more players under 30 retire in the next 5 years or so. If the rate rises, the NFL will have some serious PR work to do.

  18. h2beer says: Mar 17, 2015 11:27 AM

    Long term, this story is likely more damaging to the NFL than any player conduct controvery.

  19. chewy724 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:28 AM

    Maybe Roger will retire next… if we’re lucky.

  20. Brandon in Northwest Suburbia says: Mar 17, 2015 11:28 AM

    That…and all the parents not letting their kids their kids play football. There is going to be a significant decline in available talent in the near future.

  21. smithopher says: Mar 17, 2015 11:31 AM

    the leagues data doesnt account for players who have concussions but hide them from medical staff or medical staff who hide it from the nfl in an effort to keep the players on the field and trying to win games. not every player is like borland and puts health down the line as a priority over winning now.

  22. ghostof34 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:31 AM

    He’s 23?? He looks like he’s 33.

    Never been safer…did they start wearing flags and stop the hitting? I love football, but it is not safer, and never will be. The NFL should just stop the BS. It’s fans, are fans, because of the beauty of the game’s athleticism, speed, and strength, and the violence…especially the violence born of the speed, strength, and athleticism.

  23. Moyda says: Mar 17, 2015 11:32 AM

    #1 – There’s a decline in reported concussions.

    #2 – One can argue that adding one more cop to a city like Chicago makes it safer, but are but are you as an individual any more protected than before?

  24. vikingdoode says: Mar 17, 2015 11:33 AM

    gotta teah footballer to stop tackling with helmet to helmet hits… still goes on and in the youth leauges and High school its still there. Once it stops there you’ll see the trend reverse. that anothe 8 plus years away. Head Up has been in Youth Leauges for 3/4 years now with the NFLS help

  25. wnbasuperfan says: Mar 17, 2015 11:34 AM

    If the NFL is making investments to independent research, doesn’t that mean that it’s NOT “independent” research?

  26. commenter says: Mar 17, 2015 11:35 AM

    Clearly the damage has already been done to this guy.

  27. loubearkane says: Mar 17, 2015 11:35 AM

    He doesn’t want to play, it’s as easy as that. He could just be using the safety thing as a way of saying he really just doesn’t feel like playing anymore.

  28. philtration says: Mar 17, 2015 11:39 AM

    And the thought of putting an NFL team in London has never been dumber

  29. jayniner says: Mar 17, 2015 11:40 AM

    I was seriously hoping I had a bad nightmare last night that Borland retired…(sigh)

  30. najacoo22 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:41 AM

    Seems legit

  31. 33bennygh says: Mar 17, 2015 11:43 AM

    Agree with Michael David Smith. By issuing a statement, the NFL is in full damage control mode. They made a big mistake by trying to justify their position.

    Borland made a decision which he thinks is right for him and on his terms. Good for him.

  32. mogogo1 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:48 AM

    This is where the NFL has huge credibility problems. During the Tagliabue regime with Goodell already the the heir apparent the NFL was funding doctors who claimed football didn’t cause concussions. They even funded a medical journal to publish these doctors’ reports because the real journals wouldn’t touch the stuff. After that, how could anybody trust anything the NFL has to say about safety?

    Like they’d announce the game was too dangerous to play even if they knew exactly that? The could have a report like that on the shelf right now but it’d be just something else Goodell had never seen and knew nothing about.

  33. jbloggs13 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:49 AM

    The NFL is hoping for good wife beating today. It would take eyes off this story.

    Get real NFL and admit you have a problem. Fix the problem.

  34. restorativejusticeprogram says: Mar 17, 2015 11:49 AM

    There are SAFER HELMETS ON MARKET right now, but the NFL will not use them because:
    1. They are not being paid by manufacturer; and
    2. Worried that a switch to a clearly safer helmet will open them up to liability for not using this safer helmet earlier.

    When it comes to safety, the NFL IS LYING!

  35. mjhutmkr says: Mar 17, 2015 11:56 AM

    Borland and the other have realized there truly is more to life than football such having a normal life expectancy, no joint replacements and no long term health issues.

    This should be a wake up call to the NFL.

  36. terrytateofficelb says: Mar 17, 2015 11:56 AM

    It’s his choice..Good for him doing what he believes is right

    But I don’t understand.. guys get fined for hits and we say the league is too soft, guys leave saying its to dangerous and we agree.. I just hope it doesn’t get beat down to Flag Football

  37. sb44champs says: Mar 17, 2015 11:57 AM

    The NFL didn’t have to respond with issuing a statement like that. They could’ve just suspended Sean Payton again and called it a night.

  38. frenchy121212 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:57 AM

    It never had been safer. For the dudes in suits making the rules.

  39. bryonneufeld says: Mar 17, 2015 11:57 AM

    Everyone has to make a decision about what they want to do with their lives. Football is dangerous, but also very lucrative. Very few people have the chance to make millions of dollars and be famous. Climbers take on a lot of risk too, and sometimes die very young, and they do it for far less reward than NFL players do.

  40. mthoren68 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:59 AM

    The NFL does not have to worry about a mass exodus of players. Most of these guys don’t have decent alternatives, and/or they’re too driven by the ego/excitement. The kid made what he felt was the right choice for him. Good for him. If other guys decide the risk is worth it, good for them.

  41. rickh1 says: Mar 17, 2015 11:59 AM

    I’m just mad the niners wasted last years third round on this guy!! Can we have a do over? πŸ˜ƒ

  42. ialwayswantedtobeabanker says: Mar 17, 2015 12:01 PM

    The mere FACT this message comes from the $$$-hungry pig at the trough himself (Goodell), who has been flat busted lying in the most intelligence-insulting fashion time and time again β€” basically means it’s time to think the opposite.

    Roll Goodell out in his suit up to a mic, and the b.s. meter is working at max capacity.

  43. wtfchiefs says: Mar 17, 2015 12:01 PM

    It is also “safer” to jump off a cliff with a helmet than without one.

  44. pillowporkers says: Mar 17, 2015 12:03 PM

    There’s risks to playing football? That’s a shock! Why do we need to make it so there isn’t any? Aroldis Chapman took a line drive to the face that could’ve killed him. I watched Kevin Ware shatter his leg, and top of many other stories of players dropping dead due to heart defects playing basketball, the NHL allows fighting, and letting people beat on each others faces.

    Don’t play if you don’t want to. Chris Borland is a grown man and made a personal decision that we all can respect. Just like everyone else. Stop trying to act like football is going down the tubes (media), or that others should/will follow suit because of one person’s decision. Then you have the league office trying to pretend football is something that it’s not (League FO), it’s SO annoying.

  45. sdelmonte says: Mar 17, 2015 12:06 PM

    It’s never been safer. It’s never been safe. It never will be safe. The only things that can change is how well informed the players, how well the league takes care of the players, and how well the players care for themselves.

  46. rayzor209 says: Mar 17, 2015 12:09 PM

    WOW they issue a statement about how much safer the game is than in the past , yet they didnt put out thier that they really want to add a few more games in some way or manner. Plus if they listend to the players i believe they said that going over seas is a big wear n tear in itself. And ye the league has gained more knowledge on safety and concussions sounds to me like 1 step foward 2steps backwards if you add more games. So nice try with your statement but your not fooling anyone your still money hungry asses.

  47. Onenutstud says: Mar 17, 2015 12:13 PM

    First if he decided to stop playing due to health concerns, then good for him. Personally I am already sick of all the media outlets stating he retired. Dude played for one season in the NFL. If you play more than 5 years in this league I would consider that retirement. You played 1 season,….you quit playing sir, you didn’t retire from football. All the best in your future endovours.

  48. realfootballfan says: Mar 17, 2015 12:13 PM

    Keep burying your head in the sand and watch your sport and thus revenue land in decreased popularity because the product will continue eroding with less people willing to take the risk. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight, but we’ll see the major repercussions in 25 years. The product is already noticeably worse than it was 15 years ago, and that product was already noticeably worse than it was 15 years before that. That followed years of innovation and ascension. Trying to bury the concussion coverup was mistake one. Hiring the buffoon that is Roger Goodell to lead the merry band of new owners who are destroying the game was mistake two. Like Mark Cuban said, pigs get slaughtered, so somebody with some sense better step in real soon because I doubt the owners now care as many of them are businessmen in this only for the bucks they can have as opposed to the owners from yesteryear who really did love the game too and will be long gone by the time the league falls.

  49. cjvirnig says: Mar 17, 2015 12:15 PM

    Football, in general, has serious long term problems. There’s no denying it. Sidney Rice retires at 27, citing the fact that he’s suffered from 15-20 concussions during his career. And now Borland retires purely as a precautionary measure. Malcolm Gladwell will ultimately be proven correct: football will be ghettoized. Only poor kids who have no other options will play it at the highest levels. Everyone else will play baseball or soccer.

  50. tokyofilthblaster says: Mar 17, 2015 12:16 PM

    It’s especially safe when your opponent is the Vikings.

  51. dawiz2008 says: Mar 17, 2015 12:17 PM

    Please stop calling him a quitter. Quitting is only if season was ongoing which its not. Great luck beyond football pal!

  52. antalicus says: Mar 17, 2015 12:17 PM

    Now they will stop drafting player with an education to fall back on and concussion history.

  53. afwhigs says: Mar 17, 2015 12:18 PM

    If teams are truly following the current concussion protocols, then that can make things a big safer, but it’s still a concussion.

    And we also know that players are pressured constantly to play while hurt. After the first few weeks of the season probably everyone is playing hurt to some degree.

    A simple thing that would make a huge difference would be to emphasize proper tackling with the arms. But too many guys put their head down and just shoulder-bump the guy. It’s a poor, lazy tackling technique and they can’t see if they’re spearing the guy in the head.

    Accidents happen so injuries will always happen, but there are still plenty of things the NFL could do to make the game safer and still keep it as close to traditional tackle football as possible.

    As others have said, players are just too big and too fast now. Players are subject to things the human body isn’t designed to withstand.

  54. Watchdog says: Mar 17, 2015 12:18 PM

    There is no way to ever make a game which is based on smashing 300 pound bodies into 225 pound bodies is ever going to be safe. This is exactly why they get paid so much. I am not sure why the NFL just doesn’t flip the bird to anyone talking about safety.

  55. chiadam says: Mar 17, 2015 12:23 PM

    Safer than it was before still does not mean it’s safe.

  56. Kingmj4891 says: Mar 17, 2015 12:24 PM

    I hope the 49ers get every penny from the signing bonus back.

  57. Indybear says: Mar 17, 2015 12:35 PM

    Just read Goodell’s previous testimony about concussions and you will clearly understand that he is a liar. He and his office of cronies are destroying the game we know and love.

  58. revren10 says: Mar 17, 2015 12:46 PM

    Bad shoulders and maybe a positive PED test in the news soon for the reason he quit

  59. chiadam says: Mar 17, 2015 12:53 PM

    I think he might wind up owing the 49ers more money than he’s actually collected. The team can recoup about 3/4 of his signing bonus. That’s obviously cash out of his pocket. After his bonus was taxed, is that along with his net salary enough to pay the 49ers back 75% of his gross bonus?

  60. thebadguyswon says: Mar 17, 2015 12:56 PM

    Too much is being made of these early retirements. The money by itself guarantees that plenty of elite talents will gladly take huge money to play a violent sport.

    As far as the NFL, what exactly can they change? You can’t legislate concussions out of the sport.

  61. silverhat78 says: Mar 17, 2015 12:56 PM

    It’s all about the money for the NFL and nothing more.

  62. goooooobrowns says: Mar 17, 2015 1:00 PM

    So is smoking.

  63. weepingjebus says: Mar 17, 2015 1:05 PM

    Nothing in life is 100% safe. Hundreds of people die every year falling out of bed. I respect his decision and would never tell anyone to play a sport they don’t want to, but total safety is an impossible dream no matter what you do.

  64. madmax80 says: Mar 17, 2015 1:07 PM

    ‘Never Been Safer’


    ‘Just as dangerous as ever’

    are really almost equivalent statements. Its a little play on words that statistical analysis and marketing types have developed.

    “Nothing has been proben to work better than Advil’ really means that every medicine works just about as good or the same as Advil. The first way just sounds better in a commercial.

  65. randomcommenter says: Mar 17, 2015 1:09 PM

    This is a hysterical overreaction. He has said he last got a concussion in high school. He is not injured. He is quitting simply out of fear.

    People do dangerous jobs every day. Cops, firemen, roofers, Chris Brown’s girlfriend, etc.

    Will he stop driving on highways next?

  66. judalation says: Mar 17, 2015 1:42 PM

    How is football safer? They are using the same Equipment as they were using 20 years ago…

  67. crewchief15 says: Mar 17, 2015 1:54 PM

    Well, I try to avoid the major interstate roads due to the 5 billion trucks humming down the road at 8o mph, so yes, maybe he will stop driving on the highway’s buddy!

  68. thefirstsmilergrogan says: Mar 17, 2015 1:59 PM

    if the last few years have taught us anything, the only people who believe anything issued from the nfl main offices are fools.

    as are any posters spouting false bravado and faulting this man (who has more courage than anyone posting here) or citing his lack of heart.

  69. beartastic45 says: Mar 17, 2015 2:05 PM

    I applaud this young mans decision to walk away from the game while still healthy. I played football in high school in the 80’s and loved every minute of it. I’m sure I got a concussion where the trainer and coaches told me I just got my bell rung and it was ok to go back in and play. I don’t blame my coaches because they didn’t have the information or training they have now to spot concussion like symptoms. Now my son is about to enter high school and my wife and I are in agreement that we will not allow him to play high school football because it’s just too dangerous and we want our son to live a long and healthy life. I’m glad there are other sporting alternatives such as soccer basketball and baseball for him to choose and excel at. I’ve noticed at least in my area that for the fist time not many kids are signing up to play football that is what the NFL has to worry about concerned parents like myself steering their kids to other sports.

  70. pleasestopthesnow says: Mar 17, 2015 4:09 PM

    Yo NFL, how can you say the game is safer? Last time i checked you went all in with your Thursday Night Football package because of greed. Tell players it is safer when you expect players to play on Sunday, then turn around and play Thursday night.

  71. deepizzaguy says: Mar 17, 2015 4:20 PM

    Thank goodness I took up bowling instead of football. Three swollen fingers are better than brain damage.

  72. nicofthenorthstar says: Mar 17, 2015 6:39 PM

    The NFL has no integrity. The company policy is to lie, deceive, and deny the real dangers of playing football at a high level. Can’t blame ’em, they’ve got a whole lot to lose.

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