Ed Reed: Football business 'shady'

Updated: October 4, 2013, 12:26 PM ET
By Tania Ganguli | ESPN.com

HOUSTON -- That the NFL knew about the dangerous effect concussions have on players' brains long before publicly acknowledging the link doesn't sit well with Texans safety Ed Reed.

"The business of football is shady," Reed told ESPN.com. "The business of football is very shady. The fact that they would withhold information is bad. The fact that our [collective bargaining agreement] would not want that information, the fact that our older players would take money instead of getting that information is bad. The business of football, NFL football, is shady. Now we can't get that information anymore? It's just swept under the rug? That's bad."

A two-decades-long campaign to deny scientific research that connected brain damage to football is revealed in the book "League of Denial," written by ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru. Excerpts of the book appeared in ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated this week.

The book's release will come about six weeks after the NFL settled a lawsuit with former players for $765 million. The plaintiffs in the suit had claimed the league hid the connection between football and brain damage.

Reed, who is in his 12th NFL season, expressed both outrage and a lack of surprise. Texans running back Arian Foster, too, said the report made sense.

"It's about expanding the brand and getting a bigger business," Foster told ESPN.com. "That's what I signed up for. I know what concussions do. I do my own research. I talk to many neuroscientists. It is what it is. It's not good for you. That's the risk I take to provide for my family."

The book reports the league used its power to discredit independent scientists who warned of the link between concussions and brain diseases, relying instead on its own research and a public relations campaign to keep the public from knowing what league executives knew about the effect of concussions.

The cover-up began under former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and continued under Roger Goodell, the book says.

"It's a little scary," Texans left tackle Duane Brown told ESPN.com. "I've seen cases where guys look pretty bad. And to think that maybe it could've been prevented, it's a little disappointing. I don't know. I don't know much about it so I don't want to comment too much but that's a bit scary to think about."

Foster recalled the days before the current emphasis on concussions, when players were "considered soft" if they weren't able to shake off a concussion. Now players must pass a thorough concussion protocol before being allowed to return to a game. Once a player is diagnosed with a concussion, he cannot return to the same game.

Foster said he did his own research, with the help of his stepfather, who is a geneticist, when concussions first became a hot-button issue. He is generally skeptical about the NFL's commitment to player safety, despite the league's public emphasis on the matter.

"I think the league kind of cloaks their wanting to make the league safe, though," Foster said. "If you want to make the league safe, cut out 'Thursday Night Football.' Do something like that. Don't have guys wear pads on their legs. That's not making anybody safe. It's more like a political move that they try to make things safe. It's a combative sport. It happens. They kind of use that to make themselves look a little better, make themselves look like they care a little more than they do."

Tania Ganguli

ESPN Houston Texans reporter

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