New book puts NFL on defensive

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
3:15
PM ET
PITTSBURGH -- Millions of people received a 1,000-plus word email this week from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

It detailed all that the NFL is doing to make the game safer, particularly in regard to the treatment and prevention of concussions.

The email also touted what the NFL is doing for concussion research. Here are two passages:
Another important element of our commitment to health and safety is the funding of groundbreaking research. We have pledged more than $100 million to medical research over the next decade, including $30 million to the National Institutes of Health for independent research to advance the understanding of concussions.

We have also embarked on a $60 million partnership with GE and Under Armour to accelerate the development of advanced diagnostic tools and protective materials for head injuries. The NFL–GE-Under Armour “Head Health Initiative,” which has already attracted more than 400 proposals from 25 different countries, will reward the best new ideas from around the world in protecting against head injuries. This project and our broader research funding will yield benefits to all sports and beyond.

The mass email came a day after a story written by ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. detailed some of the more explosive allegations in “League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth.”

Excerpts of the book written bv ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wade and Steve Fainaru appear in the latest issues of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated.

The book alleges that for years the NFL tried to down play and discredit any links between head injuries and long-term brain damage.

Goodell, according to the book, inherited a concussion mess from previous NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. But the commissioner who has staked his legacy to improving player safety was also slow to react to the NFL's concussion problem, according to the book.

One chilling story from the book involves late Steelers center Mike Webster and how mental illness later linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) caused him to amass an arsenal of weapons and consider using them against NFL officials.

Steelers safety Ryan Clark addressed the new controversy generated by the book Friday on ESPN’s “First Take.”

Clark said he takes full responsibility for how he plays the game and understands there may be ramifications from it later in life.

But, Clark added, “If player safety was truly that important, the NFL wouldn’t hide documents.”

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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