SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Despite Super Bowl talk by Goodell and Obama, NFL still notserious aboutplayer safety
“The main goal of the future is to stop violence. The world is addicted to it.”
Bill Cosby“Not many guys I've ever seen can get off the ball and rock people like Clowney.”
Jon GrudenWhat a difficult Big Easy week for the Super Bowl. Deer antler spray one day, Dan Marino the next.
Cornerback Chris Culliver crass, chastised, censored and classy. All within 24 hours.
Beyonce being Beyonce.
But the recurring theme came up at least XLVII times per day: brain injuries and concussions and the future of football as we know it.
As with many a week in New Orleans, mayhem defeated caution. No game-changing solutions from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, no leadership for colleges and high schools to follow. No unveiling a billion-dollar trust fund for early deaths.
Goodell should have come clean.
Opening statement: “Sports fans love violence and we plan to keep delivering, complete with our improved NFL Network package next season.”
PowerPoint presentation: “This guy — No. 7 in garnet, seen here sending a Michigan helmet into orbit — is Jadeveon Clowney. He's our top college prospect, and this photo is on the walls of half the bars in South Carolina.”
Instead, Goodell, spokesperson for the owners, went on at his annual press conference about adding neurosurgeons to the sidelines, suspensions for dangerous hits and punishment for “repeat offenders.”
Safety talk is good, but a truly safer sport will require arm-tackling and pillow padding on top of helmets.
Until then, the concussion discussion is full of contradictions.
Fingers point at youth coaches, most of whom are volunteers trying their best. But it's up to parents — to pressure leagues at all age levels to add medical staff, and to agree to the increased participation fees that come with safer play.
Network announcers wince as improved field microphone technology picks up the crack of helmets.
The NFL rolls out a timeline TV commercial indicating a tradition of interest in safe play, but how about attending to the lawsuits piling up?
Those filing suits against the NFL claiming the league concealed information linking football-related head injuries to permanent neurological problems include Langston Moore, a James Island High School and South Carolina graduate.
Four other Palmetto State natives, former Gamecocks Corey Miller and Henry Taylor and former Auburn players Stephen Davis and Travis Williams, are suing.
Obama vs. Harbaugh
Suspensions almost always target the big, bad hitters. But if the NFL is really interested in safety, flag 5-8 running back Danny Woodhead of the New England Patriots for lowering his helmet (thus endangering brain and vertebrae) and smashing into a linebacker's sternum in the open field.
Obama vs. Harbaugh
“We're policing the wrong things, for real,” Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed said this week.
The NFL is flush with talented, young running quarterbacks. It will be interesting to see if refs do extra policing on their behalf.
The family of Junior Seau, the late star linebacker, is suing the NFL with emphasis on brain damage from repeated concussions suffered before his suicide. But Reed said Seau “signed up for it” when he joined the NFL.
Even President Barack Obama weighed in on football dangers, saying if he had a son, he might not let the kid play football.
“If President Obama feels that way, then there will be a little less competition for Jack Harbaugh when he gets older,” San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said of his five-month-old son.
By the way, there was nothing inappropriate about the Clowney hit; the South Carolina Gamecocks' sophomore defensive end drove his facemask into the chest of Michigan running back Vincent Smith with the crown of the helmet striking just below the collarbone. While Smith wasn't hurt, accumulated pounding like that — for Smith and Clowney — probably isn't real healthy.
But we are addicted to violence as sports entertainment, and things are unlikely to change in Beyonce's lifetime.Reach Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff