Bernard Pollard: NFL's future bleak

Updated: January 28, 2013, 11:10 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Bernard Pollard has a bleak take on the future of the NFL.

The hard-hitting Baltimore Ravens safety told CBSSports.com recently that he doesn't believe the league will be in existence in 30 years because of rules changes instituted in an effort to make the game safer, and the chance a player might die on the field as players continue to get stronger and faster.

"Thirty years from now, I don't think it will be in existence. I could be wrong. It's just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going -- where [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," he told the website.

"Guys are getting fined, and they're talking about, 'Let's take away the strike zone' and 'Take the pads off' or 'Take the helmets off.' It's going to be a thing where fans aren't going to want to watch it anymore."

The issue of football safety was on the mind of President Barack Obama recently when he told The New Republic in an interview for its Feb. 11 issue that, if he had a son, he would think long and hard before allowing him to play the sport.

[+] EnlargeBernard Pollard
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesBernard Pollard, who has earned the reputation of being one of the NFL's hardest-hitting safeties, doesn't believe the NFL will exist in 30 years.

Obama told the magazine that football fans are going to have to wrestle with the fact that the game will probably change over time to try to reduce the violence.

The president says that some of those changes might make football, in his words, "a bit less exciting" but that it will be much better for players.

"And those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much," he said.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to Obama's comments Sunday, saying the NFL has "no higher priority than player health and safety at all levels of the game."

Pollard said he understands the movement to make the game safer for players, but coaches are looking for players who are "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. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks," he told the website.

Pollard has a reputation for big hits. He was fined $15,250 for unnecessary roughness last week for his third-quarter hit on New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker in the Ravens' AFC Championship Game victory.

Pollard received a 15-yard penalty on the play for striking an opponent in the head and neck area.

He also forced a crucial fumble, however, by knocking running back Stevan Ridley out of that game. He was not penalized or fined for the hit on Ridley.

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss was used in this report.

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