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Roger Goodell says his focus is safety, but isn't it all about the bottom line? Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Eighteen games? Examining Roger Goodell's motives

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell commands the aggressive movement to alter the pinnacle of competition into a preconscious, timid shell for the future, but looking beneath the calculated promotions and programs is a look toward a larger endgame.

Cheddar.

Not the kind we slice on a cracker, but the kind that affords helicopters, luxury homes on the Rivera and the comfort of a coddled society.

Goodell assumes responsibility concerning the safety of children and players participating in the sport. But what he truly covets is what has been the subliminal thread in the way we view America’s Game.

Eighteen games.

Professional football is evolving, but not everyone likes what Roger Goodell is doing.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Pounding the drum like a hyper-active six-year-old, Goodell has conjured substantial rule changes to ensure fewer injures, beneath a veil of steadfast resolve for a longer season.

Does this seem hypocritical?

Absolutely.

By eliminating the heavy hits, and taking away the opportunity to wear a quarterback down from pressure and contact, Goodell is sending a message that the game is secondary to the faces that go on the billboards and commercials.

Alanis Morrisette would call it ironic , but I find it baffling that the quarterback that helped pave the way for QB protective services, was the product of the same circumstances that brought him into the limelight.

This quarterback is Tom Brady.

Brought from absolute absurdity by an injury to Drew Bledsoe, Brady helped transform the game away from the running back to the aerial attack we see today. Yet, as soon as Brady encounters a terrible injury, the NFL panics like a hovering mother.

Rather than allow the Russian roulette of destiny to intervene, the sport is preventing players from being a participant to being an involved spectator.

Goodell’s motives are eliminating the ability to rush the passer – by second-guessing instinct and defying Newton, by instructing a 350-pound lineman to halt their momentum two seconds before touching the quarterback.

Taking the physicality out of football isn’t sitting well with the fans. Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Instead of discovering the depth of a team, or discovering a fresh quarterback, the NFL has handcuffed the game by turning it into a 7-on-7 drill. We will never again see the grit of a Brett Favre taking shot-after-shot, yet still delivering lasers around the field.

That era is over.

By milking the franchise stars to the hilt through protection, the NFL can market a safer environment for players and a solid counterpoint to any naysayer to the argument of exhaustion of the season.

I can just envision the conversation.

“Well, the season is too long, we can’t endure more games.”

“We eliminated the helmet hits, took away the danger to the quarterback and lessened the violence within the game. So … your argument is?”

If Goodell truly cared about the game, his insistence on lengthening the season, even after the stark changes, should encompass the entire game. I can still feel the vomit creeping up my throat from the horrendous call made by the replacement referees in the infamous, “Fail Mary.”

If the game’s safety is the priority, then why were unqualified officials monitoring the break-neck pace of the game? Why did it take the absolute worst call to bring back the quality of the game?

Players do not want a longer season – owners do. And Goodell will listen to their wallets rather than the opinion of the players either on their safety or the way the game is enforced.

Outside linebacker James Harrison has made a name for himself in the NFL through his stellar play and crushing hits. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Look, safety is paramount to the game. No one wants brain-damaged players hobbling and grasping for a full sentence. But to remove the essence of physicality diminishes the competition.  Linebacker James Harrison’s headhunting has caused widespread fear among those crossing the middle of the field, but isn’t that the point? Should he be a villain for using an aspect of the game to attack the already stacked offenses across the league?

Personally, it adds a chess-like match to the game. If the middle of the field becomes toxic to the wide receivers, then the options of going deep, attacking with the run or taking chances became another piece of the game’s overall fabric.

By taking away that mental and physical part of the game, the coaches and players are pulling back rather than exuding their knowledge and skill of the game

Also, how much of the terrible hits fall on the quarterback play? If a rookie throws a duck, and expects for there to be no consequence, then no lesson is learned. Nothing is gained or unveiled about the player, and thus makes the scouting of talent even more skewed.

The actions taken initially to curb the violence with fines is great in changing the attitude, but to affect the game in which they can be decided on hairline physical calls, makes former players like Dan Marino sick, according to Justin Maiman of the Daily Ticker,

Former NFL quarterback Marino tells The Daily Ticker’s Aaron Task there’s a fine line between protecting the players from concussions, and changing the game outright.

“If you take away too much of it, then it’s gonna be like flag football … the players know what the risk are …  when I went out there to play I knew there was a chance I could get a concussion …”

If the reasoning is  protecting the player, should a sport like boxing stop a fight after every concussion? Should basketball outlaw jumping? Can NASCAR continue with death a possibility around every corner? Should we strip football of its essence – the very things that make it unique?

Examples like Junior Seau are black-eyes on the sport, but as Marino said, they signed up to play. When sports commentators remarked at how Seau played with reckless abandon, he in fact was. Dictating the extra damage received is applied to the amount of involvement a singular athlete makes. Sometimes it can come down to intelligence.

Former Falcons defensive back Dunta Robinson and Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson had a vicious collision that helped spur the round of changes, but for not one second did I think the game was the reason for their embarrassing lack of awareness. Robinson wanted to prove a point that physics would not control him and Jackson thought he was the Hulk, only to find out that he was Loki.

Here’s a look at that play:

 

There is a price to pay, and as John Goodman said in “The Big Lebowski” – “This isn’t ‘Nam; there are rules.”

Nobody is forcing these athletes to play. The give and take is like everything in life. You choose to eat  too much chocolate, you may get fat; you speed long enough, you may get pulled over. The risks are inherent.

So instead of making this a case of protecting the players against themselves, Goddell should fess up to the reality of the situation of more games and less contact.

It’s all about quantity over quality and the dollars in this case don’t add up to sense.

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Tags: 18 Game Schedule NFL Roger Goodell Safety

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