While NFL players have a number of concerns, the main one for a large number of them remains their ability to function as human beings when they’re finished playing football.
In a USA Today survey of 108 players in December and January (6.3 percent of the league, a decent sample size), the most common response to a question about the most important issue facing the league was health and safety, inlcuding concerns about CTE (39 percent).
Compensation and social issues drew 18 percent each.
“Trying to figure out more about CTE and making sure that we try to adjust the system and the way you play, so we can protect ourselves,” Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Just get as much information as we can. They can do more to protect defensive guys, too. But the fact that they’re thinking about it is a start.”
Eagles tight end Brent Celek suggested shortening the regular season to 14 games (which will never happen, of course).
“In the long run, this game is all about matchups, and the fewer amount of games, the matchups mean more,” he said. “I think that’ll make it more popular in the long run.”
Others were more pragmatic, or drew a line between the top two issues.
“You might say player safety, but you can go with bread,” Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee said. “The biggest aspect is guaranteed bread. All these other sports … in hoops, they may get an elbow every now and then, but we’re out here taking shots. Crazy shots.”
While Lee’s use of the vernacular might dilute the point for some, he brought up Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who remains in a wheelchair after a spinal injury in Week 13.
“For him not to have as much guaranteed bread [as players in other sports] is ridiculous,” Lee said. “You know what they’re going to hit you with: ‘You’ve got more players in football.’ But look at the money [the NFL] makes every year.”
The other issues mentioned by players as a top concern were television ratings and growing the game, officiating and player disipline and fines, along with communication between the league and players, the size of practice squads and confusion about the catch rule.
Which makes players like the rest of us, I suppose.