NFL football is the most popular sport in the United States, which comes as little surprise to most Americans. From opening day to the Super Bowl, football is a weekly phenomenon. However, between all the dazzling Odell Beckham Jr. one-handed grabs and Aaron Rodgers successful Hail Marys, there’s an unsettling truth lurking: Football is – by far – the most dangerous popular sport.
In 2013, more than 4,500 NFL players reached a $765 million settlement with the league after being diagnosed with and/or suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease often caused by a severe blow to the head. CTE is impossible to diagnose until death, but many players report the symptoms, which begin to show around 8-10 years after the infliction. CTE sufferers can experience dizziness, headaches and disorientation, in addition to memory loss, poor judgment and erratic behavior.
While a big tackle isn’t necessarily going to inflict future CTE among the player being hit every time, there’s no arguing that the potential for CTE is a growing concern every time players take the field. It’s a sad reality that, when you turn on a professional football game, it’s extremely likely that players you’re watching will develop CTE symptoms down the line, purely because how the game is played. No other sport involves as much contact or bang-bang tackles. Football leads significantly as the sport with the most head injuries.
When looking at the types of injuries that are fairly commonplace in the sport, certain gruesome injuries come to mind that effectively demonstrate the sport’s high-risk nature, even beyond the brain:
Mike Utley’s Vertebrae Injury
Mike Utley, a former Lions offensive lineman, suffered perhaps the sport’s more gruesome injury when he severely injured his sixth and seventh vertebrae against the LA Rams on Nov. 17, 1991. Although he gave the crowd a thumbs-up as he was removed from the field, his spinal cord injuries made him a paraplegic. Although his career was finished by the injury, Utley has turned it into a positive, starting the Mike Utley Foundation, which supports treatment for spinal cord injuries.
It’s the Super Bowl. You’re over at your buddy’s house watching the game when the clock finally expires in the second quarter. Up next are some clever commercials before the broadcast returns and you’re greeted with an epic, gargantuan halftime show that seemingly covers the entire football field.
Ten minutes ago, the field was more or less empty. But right now, there’s a huge stage front and center, not to mention all the props, costumed folks, lighting apparatuses and other spectacles.
How the heck do they pull off these kinds of stunts?
It’s not luck: it’s the result of intense, careful planning. After all, there are only a few minutes to get the stage together. The performance itself is 12 minutes long, and then the stage needs to be completely disassembled and carted off the field.
“It’s the most unique of any unique show or experience,” explains Hamish Hamilton, who’s directed the Super Bowl halftime show since 2010. “It’s easily the most intense and by far the most adrenaline-charged because you have a very real set of factors that can only come together at halftime.” Read the rest of this entry →
With the 2014 NFL draft now in the books, it makes sense to look at some of the worst mistakes made by teams at the draft. Of course, scouts, general managers and head coaches work hard in the months leading up to the draft, trying to acquire the best possible player at their draft position. Every season, however, there are players drafted in the first round who do not work out for whatever reason, and these picks set their franchises back for years to come.
The following are some of the worst selections in recent memory.
The 1999 NFL draft was supposed to have a very special quarterback class, and Tim Couch was the first one selected. The Cleveland Browns, who were returning to the NFL after their original franchise moved to Baltimore, took Couch first overall, ahead of players like Donovan McNabb, Edgerrin James, and Champ Bailey.
The result was disastrous, as Couch would only start 59 games over his five-year career. While Couch did have potential, the Browns put the fate of the franchise on his shoulders, and he failed to live up to the hype. Read the rest of this entry →
It’s the dream of every player, coach, owner and fan to witness their team go undefeated and lift the Lombardi Trophy after a perfect season. However, one of the greatest characteristics of the National Football League—its parity—is the reason the fleeting dream is so rarely realized. The only evidence necessary to see the truth in the difficulty of achieving a perfect season is the fact only one team has done it. We’re talking no losses and no ties — including playoffs. The 1972 Miami Dolphins remain able to crack open the champagne bottles every year to celebrate their distinct achievement, although several teams before and after that Dolphins team have so nearly joined them in the most elite group in football’s history.
The Only Perfect Season
Under the great Don Shula, the ’72 Dolphins achieved immortality by obtaining a perfect 14-0 in the regular season before defeating the Browns, Steelers and Redskins in the playoffs to finish 17-0-0. Although they boasted the NFL’s top-ranked offense by scoring an average of 27.5 points per game, the Dolphins’ defense carried the team through the playoffs. Miami never scored more than 21 points in a postseason game, but their opponents were held to 17 points or fewer thanks to the top-ranked defense in the league, which averaged 12.2 points allowed per game. The prowess of the Dolphins’ 4-3 defense was obvious in the Superbowl, where it held the NFC Champion Redskins to just seven points.
Imagine a time in the history of American football when helmets were completely optional. That was the reality for early NFL football. In fact, helmets and face guards were not mandatory until 1943 — four years after they became mandatory for collegiate football. Even after the change, older players were allowed to play without a helmet. The last player to do so was Dick Plasman, whose career spanned from 1937 to 1947.
Looking back to a time when players preferred to play the game with no helmet whatsoever, it’s clear that such a policy would be unthinkable today. Odds are better of finding a nutritious meal at a local McDonald’s. Was this lax behavior due to ignorance about safety or was the game much different then? Were the NFL’s early uniforms so different that they actually made the game safer?
The Uniform Materials Of Yesteryear
Early American football uniforms were rather simplistic. Taking a look at vintage uniforms, much of the padding was reinforced with leather, at least what little padding there was. Early gridiron veterans resented all the padding. In their eyes, the focus on safety was making the game more “effeminate.” The mental image back then was similar to “A Christmas Story” where your mother didn’t let you out the door unless you were bundled up in layers to the point you couldn’t move.
As we took off into the second quarter of the season (for most teams), the fascinating phenomena kept rolling in. Included in this week’s list is something that hasn’t happened to the New England offense in seven years, a first for any quarterback since the merger, the continuation of home dominance for one NFC North team, a record-tying day for one tight end and an offensive outburst in Dallas. Here are your Week 5 NFL headlines.
Travis Benjamin had a career night in the return game for the red-hot Browns.
The Browns scored their first rushing touchdown of the season (and it wasn’t Trent Richardson) in their fifth game and stayed perfect when starting quarterback Brian Hoyer as they beat the Bills, 37-24, on Thursday night. They did, however, lose Hoyer for the season with a partially torn ACL suffered early in the game. Cleveland punt returner, Travis Benjamin, tied a franchise record with 166 punt return yards in the win for the first-place Browns. Their 37 points were the most they have scored in a game since putting up 41 back in 2009. Since Week 3, they are averaging 28.3 points per game after averaging eight points per game in the first two weeks.
The Patriots fell from the ranks of the unbeaten and the Bengals improved to 6-22 against the AFC East since 1998 as New England managed only six points in the 13-6 loss. The six points were the fewest for the high-powered New England offense since being shut out on Dec. 10, 2006, 21-0, in Week 14 against Miami. The Bengals’ 5-22 record had been the third-worst against one division in that span. Andy Dalton’s first-quarter interception in the red zone was the first red-zone pick of his career. Tom Brady fell two short of the all-time record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass as he failed to record one in game No. 53. The Pats had won 63 straight games when allowing 13 points or less with their last such loss coming in 2001. Read the rest of this entry →