Bernard Pollard questions long-term future of NFL

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Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard will play in his first Super Bowl in just a week as the Ravens take on the San Francisco 49ers.

Yet Pollard is wondering just how many Super Bowls will be played in the future.

According to Clark Judge of, Pollard doesn’t paint a very promising picture for the long-term future of the league.

Pollard sees a conundrum coming between the league losing fans by over-legislating the physicality of the sport in the name of player safety and the players continuing to get bigger, faster and stronger.

“Thirty years from now,” Pollard said, “I don’t think it will be in existence. I could be wrong. It’s just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going — where they [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they’re throwing flags and everything else — there’s going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it.

“The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety],” he added, “but, at the same time, [coaches] want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you’re going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I’m waiting for … and, Lord, I hope it doesn’t happen … is a guy dying on the field. We’ve had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks.”

Pollard has a reputation as a big-hitter and has earned his fair share of fines from the league due to illegal hits so he’s felt the effects of the league’s rule changes more than most. He knows fans cheer big hits while the league is trying to limit them.

While Pollard may be overly pessimistic over the future of the league, it’s an intriguing perspective.

62 responses to “Bernard Pollard questions long-term future of NFL

  1. He’s not wrong and wait for the lawsuits to hit the courts. Who’s going to insure these teams?

  2. Right on point. Goody is leading the charge to distinction of the game as we know it.

  3. im going out on the limb here but, maybe, just maybe, players like pollard can start hitting the shoulders and chest rather than head hunting all the time.

    as i was taught in pee wee football “head to the SIDE, watch the hips, wrap the waste” these players know this, yet blatantly go for the head to head hits. if the fans that look forward to these viscous “life-threatening” hits leave the game because of penalties and the nfl trying to correct WRONG hits and keep players safe. let them leave, they clearly aren’t interested in the true values of football.

    stop fining them, ban them.

  4. I think Pollard is right on the money, and I’ll add that big-time college football won’t be far behind the NFL. As the new playoff system generates more income, similar lawsuits will be filed more and more against the NCAA and it’s universities.

    It’s time we all adopt soccer and lacrosse as our favorite sports since they won’t be sued out of existence.

  5. Anyone who viewed a short piece on former RB Leroy Heard, and the condition of his present life at the hands of NFL participation would not feel as though Pollard is off the mark with his prediction.

  6. Every time I hear Bernard Pollard talking I’m reminded of that scene in Anchorman: Take it easy, Champ. Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while.

  7. Something has to give. The game is already very different from whatit was 30 years ago. If the NFL continues down this path then Pollard has a valid point.

    First, get rid of the tuck rule and apologize to RAIDER NATION for the transgression.

  8. He makes a very good point. The only thing that can kill the NFL is fans losing interest. The only way that will happen is if they continue to try to take away the defenses. Taking HGH out of the equation will eliminate a lot more concussions than taking away kickoff and punt returns.

  9. Instead of over-legislating, just make the field 10 yards wider. The speed goes up, but the extra space on both sides negates it a bit.

  10. The fans may walk from it due to being a “lighter contact” sport because the league is throwing those flags, levying those fines and handing down suspensions but the reason the league is doing that is because the players who “know what we signed up for” are now claiming they don’t and are suing the league.

    League’s not doing that for grins – they’re doing it because the specter of billions in lawsuits from the very players they already made rich once is looming.

    If the players weren’t suing, things wouldn’t be changing – you can’t have it both ways. Lawsuits will not be part of “the cost of doing business” – they’re going to do what they can to eliminate it.

  11. It is hard for me to believe that expanding the roster to 63 players to minimize the amount of contact each player takes over the course of a 16 game season plus adding kevlar to the helmets along with an equipment redesign would not make the NFL safer.
    Even making player sleep in oxygen chamber can help with the recovery of the human body.
    Staying status quo would definitely be the end of the NFL. Just make the necessary changes.

  12. You guys are idiots. The players actually prefer to be hit up high? Why? Because hitting textbook by wrapping up the knees or midsection tends to blow out a guy’s knees. Meaning he can’t play, and he can’t make money or get new contracts. The players don’t mind getting hit high even if its in the head because they can at least still continue earning their living and running around to continue to provide or their families.

    You blow out a guy’s knees and he could potentially end his career more than he could going high

  13. @hawkforlife

    Well said. Very well said. I am an independent insurance adjuster (29 years) Your comment hits it on the head. That’s the reality of it. Wish it wasn’t, but it is.

  14. Just an idea; height/weight limits?

    I have a 1984 Pro Football Handbook and the first team roster I opened it up to is the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Heaviest guys: 270, 2 offensive linemen and a DT-DE.
    No one over 300 lbs!

  15. Brady, Welker, Gronk, and now Ridley… If Pollard plays 5 more years there won’t be any more Patriots but I’m certain the league will be around. That would be good news to the people more concerned with Bill B’s VHS collection than those who actually know something about the game.

  16. How about requiring more padding? More protection & it will slow the game down equally among players wearing the amount of equipment.

  17. It wont be the rules themselves that drive the fans away… the NFL is tightening up for fun, its the rediculous litigation that is coming down the pipes that is driving this car. Blame the system that allows lawsuits for obvious outcomes. This is the same legal system that allows criminals to sue the homeowner when they are injured trying to steal from said homeowner.

  18. I find Pollard’s throwback style refreshing. And I’m a diehard Pats fan.

    When the Pats actually won Super Bowls, it had a lot to do with a similar safety who you now see on Football Night in America. 3-7 is my guy.

  19. Hate to say it, but he’s probably right. But as others have said, it is not helping that other players and their families are suing. What else is the NFL supposed to do when they are getting sued left and right?

    I dont like the taming down of the game that we’ve been seeing, and as much as it bugs me, I cant completely fault the NFL. They really have no choice.

  20. You guys are nuts to think the NFL will fold because of lawsuits, it will not happen. The worst that would happen is a huge settlement where the NFL only makes 1 billion in a years time rather than 2. Pollard is right tho about players becoming bigger etc. and that’s why the NFL needss to start vigorously drug testing these guys and that problem will mostly go away. Imo the biggest threat to the game is the at home experience compared to the stadium experience for most of the teams. The NFL is not nearly as exciting with a half empty stadium and 20% of the fans rooting for the other team. Lower ticket prices, concessions etc. and make the TV deals cover the difference, drug testing with a lifetime ban on the second offense and the NFL will as strong as ever, IMO.

  21. He’s right, but I think he missed the actual path.

    First, local communities will begin removing tackle football and push to flag football due to insurance premiums. Eventually, lawsuits (or fear of lawsuits) will slowly dissolve most sports, not just football.

    Second, high school level football will continue to contract athletics, combine schools systems to field teams, and eventually make the ‘pay-to-play’ so high that the sports at high school level will begin to wither. The death blow will again be the inability of the school systems under financial stress to provide liability insurance for sports programs.

    Third, the sport will begin to migrate out of the USA and toward Europe – the fan base will eventually grow.

    Fourth College athletics will struggle to find ‘athletes’ because the grade schools and high schools no longer have programs. The small schools (Div II & Div III) will eventually dry up. Again, without Bowl Game type revenue, the alumni will not be able to fund the insurance premiums.

    Fifth, you will end up with a much smaller college sports system to support the NFL, but by this time many of the teams will have migrated to Europe. American athletes who want to play football will be recruited by Universities in Europe.

    We’ll end up with a bastardized but much smaller version of what we see now.

    Don’t believe me? Search for things like “banning tag in schools” and the like. It is already happening. Just a matter of time.

  22. If you really want to cut down on concussions and head trauma, take the helmets OFF. It was a good idea at the time but fact of the matter is the helmet went from a safety item to a weapon. Any of us that have played football is guilty of it, lowering your head to deliver a blow. Running Backs and Secondary players are the worst offenders. And now we have generations of players from Pop to Pro that have learned that bad habit.
    Everyone needs to relearn how to play and we must teach our children to play differently than we did or this great game will be extinct in 30 years. Obviously we can’t actually remove the hats, so the fines are our only option at this point. I would like to see penalties for the offensive player for lowering his head. I bet Leroy Hoard would agree.

  23. i don’t disagree. curbing the use of HGH *may* help, but the league needs to leverage technology for safety equipment as well

  24. Unlike others, I prefer to not get my medical opinions from one of the dumbest people to put the uniform on.

  25. Pollard hasn’t studied the history of the league very well. In 1971 Chuck Hughes, a WR for the Detroit Lions died on the field. He is THE ONLY PLAYER to have died on the field. He had a heart condition and had a major heart attack while returning to the huddle.

    In 1976, you had WR Darryl Stingley paralyzed by a vicious hit from Oakland’s Jack Tatum.

  26. “If the players weren’t suing, things wouldn’t be changing – you can’t have it both ways. Lawsuits will not be part of “the cost of doing business” – they’re going to do what they can to eliminate it.”


    The same players who whine today about fines will be suing the league in 10-15 years. They know what they’re getting into, you either accept the inherent risks, or you become an accountant and forgo playing football.

  27. Excellent realistic comments from a player and observers exploring the crucial conundrum this sport faces.

    How can we as a society continue our lust for sanctioned gladitorial combat short of the ultimate price in the face of the realities of physics and collision trauma?

    Even potential improvements in helmets and protective equipment that would make players look like balloon-headed Michelin men may not be enough to prevent even more serious traumas than those that presently occur, given future improvement in player power and speed.

    Though we spectators may wish we could be participants, the reality is that very few have the physical capacities and mental fortitude to engage in this regulated brutality at this elite level.

    The players, like those that choose a military career, deserve our utmost respect, regardless of their often asinine behavior.

    Hopefully, collectively we fans, team staff, players, coaches, owners, and league administrators will be able to continue this spectacle long into the future, if the legal and moral costs do not become prohibitive.

    Solutions will require real creative efforts — fortunately the passion for the game is undeniable.

  28. Pollard is point on. I love the game. As I grow older, I realize how brutal it is.

    This game, as we know it today, will not survive. It’s own success on television will undo the stadium experience, and the CTE findings will eliminate young people from the game.

    Football will be a side show in 30 years.

  29. Heads up guys. Gonna change user name to “Blow me a kiss”. Somebody is laughing somewhere. Listen hard.

  30. Hate Bernard Pollard with a passion, but hard to argue this point.

    For those of you who don’t think football can’t become irrelevant in 30 years, take a look at boxing.

  31. NFL will eventually settle the lawsuits and hopefully technology makes a better and more affordable helmet because I think the biggest threat is the reduction in youth football leagues due to lawsuits/insurance premiums. Hopefully football find a better way to reduce head trauma through proper technique training and helmet technology. NFL Football is such an amazing game that it would be ashame if it turned into Flag Football akin to Pollard’s fears.

  32. People it’s a nine BILLION dollar industry. Much like the big tobacco and pharmaceutical companies the nfl will never fold and find a way around it

  33. The Football purists want hard hitting football, however the casual fan wants high scoring games. Changing a culture takes time. And as the young kids grow up they will embrace the “Goodell way” of doing things. In the next 30 years we may have many more high scoring 55-50 games. And the public will enjoy it, the old timers will complain about how when they were young the game had hard hits. I see the elimination of the extra point. And all teams will have to go for a conversion as well to keep the game competitive

  34. Perhaps the solution is to take a closer look at boxing and weight classes. If players are getting bigger and stronger, perhaps putting a weight limit per position will reduce the impact energy. Big hits might still occur, but the damage would be less with lighter players.

  35. Pollard is a throw back, big hitter and he is right about the path of the league. The lawsuits against the league do not look good for the future.

    Folks that call him dirty don’t watch his games. He aims for the chest of players, and the receivers duck their head because they know they are about to get plowed. Not only is Welker several inches shorter than Pollard, he was also bent down slightly. Pollard was aiming lower than were Welker’s head was, and that describes the problem. Receivers clinch up, and the strike zone becomes the knees to the waist.

  36. I love Pollard and I love the way he plays, but I loved Jack Tatum too but his way had to go. I watched those games “back in the day” and they were no more enjoyable than today’s game. I even go back to “3 yards and a cloud of dust”. Now, that was boring.

    To have Jim McMahon suing the league over hits to the head is the ultimate irony. This idiot would bang his helmet against his own players helmets to celebrate a good play. I am sad that he has problems today, but everyone told him he was nuts when he was doing that stupid stuff. Now he says that “nobody told me” and “they hid this information”. This is all about lawyers, money, and young men making poor decisions after being advised to walk away. You can’t have it both ways.

  37. iamthefootballjerk says:

    Really? If Pollard is such a “clean” player then why all the penalties and fines? And that hit against Welker was unnecessary…he was already in the hands of another Ravens Defensive Player…he was trying to take him out of the game because that’s the kind of player he is and that is the way they are coached. Pees said it himself….hit them hard..who cares about the penalties…it’ll make them think before catching another ball.

    On a side note….the above Poster who said they should play without helmets….that would be a great idea…that way when they put these huge hits on the players…both will be knocked out….and the Defensive Player will be the one thinking twice before hitting them…why is it they can’t tackle withouth putting “hits” on them? And what is worse..people on here complaining that the game is turning soft….you want to see someone take a beating watch UFC Caged or watch the Series “Spartucus” I actually watch the game as a sport to see if my team wins or loses…not for the useless and unnecessary “hits”.

  38. Of course he’s right.

    The declining attendance and plummeting TV ratings are a sure sign the American public has had about as much as they are going to take of Goodell’s meddling with the game.

    Oh wait…….

  39. Sounds to me like Pollard is finally feeling the effects of the head hunting hits he’s made. You can’t go helmet to helmet and expect the other guy to be the only one feeling it. All you have to do people is look at the ratings, the NFL is going no where but up…

  40. It’s. Not going anywhere… Pollard is an idiot. The league has changed many times before and it adapted and was successful. I don’t know if the league is brave enough to do what is necessary and reduce the equipment so the players aren’t wearing weapons. Making bigger better helmets makes players hit harder with their head and neck. It’s not a solution and never has been.

  41. There is only so much adaptation that the fans will take. The way Goodell is moving this is going to be a flag football league. Or even worse two hand touch. Think he or I am lying look at how they protect Mr. Brady! Look at what they are doing to the WRs. It is only time before they say the same for RBs.

  42. Pollard, has a point. If you can no longer play straight football, it’s a moot point. Players won’t have a desire to play, and fans won’t be motivated to watch.

  43. The game will be around and it won’t be turned into a fairy fest if they simply decide to have liability waiver requirement. We sign liability waivers for many things. They are very common for all manner of risky endeavors and people sign them all of the time. It is the only way the sport will survive because otherwise law suits will kill it. If you require the players to sign a liability waiver, then the problem will be solved and the game can continue on. HOWEVER….the intrusive, incompetent and corrupt slime bags
    in our government will probably find a way to stick their filthy noses into it and screw everything up.

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