As Ravens safety Bernard Pollard gets ready to play on football's biggest stage, he offered a grim outlook for the most popular sport in this country.
"Thirty years from now, I don't think it will be in existence," Pollard told CBSSports.com. "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."
While predicting the end of the NFL is too extreme, Pollard brings up an important issue. The league is facing tremendous pressure and scrutiny when it comes to how the game affects the long-term health of its players. It didn't help when word came out this weekend that President Barack Obama questioned the safety of football, saying he would think long and hard before allowing his son to play.
Football is a violent sport, and it's that physical aspect of the game that draws fans. No one is going to be passionate about flag football (just look at the interest in the Pro Bowl). Does that mean the demise of the NFL? I hardly think so. But the quality of play will significantly diminish if the NFL continues to restrict its players on the field. You can certainly bet a player who hits like Pollard won't be on the field in 30 years based on the direction that the league is heading.
Pollard believes the league should be worried about more severe consequences than concussions.
"The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety]," he said, "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."
Let's hope Pollard is wrong on both of his predictions.