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Monday, January 27, 2014
NFLN survey/player safety: Redskins

By John Keim

When I asked some Washington Redskins about playing in the Super Bowl with a concussion, it was clear most would do so if given the chance. There were some in this anonymous survey who said no, but of the 10 players I spoke to eight said they would play with a concussion. One player, when told the topic, assumed that everyone would have said yes.

Another, who has had a concussion, declined to answer because he didn't want to send the wrong message to youth football players. For most players, such as Brian Orakpo, it depended on the symptoms. There are some symptoms they felt could be hidden from doctors -- how severe a headache is, for example. So if they weren't feeling too bad, then they likely would try. But at a certain point you're putting yourself at risk and you're hurting the team. If the symptoms linger then, just like a bad knee sprain, the ability to play well and contribute would decrease.

But this survey tells what most people already know: Few players look that far into the future when thinking about their bodies. It's tough to blame them because their earning potential is tied to a very short window and to miss time is, in many cases, a chance to lose your job or spot on the team. Some are more secure than others, of course, but you also don't want to develop a reputation for not being available. Head trauma is a tough one because it's not as if players limp around and display outward symptoms. In some cases, that might be true.

My son suffered a concussion as a high school sophomore and the effects linger three years later (and he was sidelined from sports for six months). Yet few NFL players miss substantial time because of a concussion. It's hard to believe that so many are cleared within a week of suffering one (I also think concussions are diagnosed more often these days and some headaches might be termed mild concussions just to be safe). The players know this, too, and it's why if the symptoms aren't that bad, they're willing to gamble a little on their future for success in the present.

Fewer players said the NFL is committed to player safety, but the majority still said it is. There were a few eye rolls and there were some issues they'd like to see resolved, like cut blocks -- even one Redskins offensive linemen said he has a problem with such blocks. It's safe to say that more defensive players are frustrated by this commitment, but even some of them admit the game is a little safer.

Overall, it'll never be a safe game.