"If I were commissioner."
That is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot by people who think they know everything. But what if you actually did become the most powerful person in all of professional sports. What if you were in charge of a multi-billion dollar industry? What would you do to make the game that we all love even better?
I was thinking about this the other day and compiled a list of things that I would do if I were to achieve my dream job. I am a firm believer that one of the biggest issues the NFL faces is the concussion problem. It has been ongoing and has been one of my most researched subjects (I even created a business plan with a solution to help combat this epidemic). First and foremost, I would drastically change the concussion protocol. There is absolutely no way that a player can be knocked unconscious on the football field and find a way back onto the gridiron the following week. Obviously I am no medical expert but you can learn a lot by listening and reading and seeing with your own two eyes. The worst part is that we still don’t know nearly enough about concussions.
These players need to be protected but they need to be protected from themselves. In my opinion, if a player sustains his second concussion in a season they must stay out for at least three weeks. If a third concussion is suffered during the football season, including training camp, they must be shut down for the rest of the year. After watching football for years I have only seen Ben Roethlisberger take himself out of a game (week 12 against Seattle) because he is thinking about life after football. Then again, Big Ben is already financially set for the rest of his life. The people you really have to watch are the players who are young and are not well off.
Also, for an industry that is worth roughly forty five billion dollars is it really too expensive to hire extra concussion “experts” for each game? In fact, I’m sure you can start a program where you can get three or four medical cognitive neuroscience students, under the supervision of a concussion expert, that can go to the games and watch every single play. They can do a great deal of research whilst there and can be paid minimally or not at all. This would benefit both parties as we can vastly expand our research and knowledge very quickly, all while protecting the players.
One more thing that I would attempt to do is allow the use of Human Growth Hormones for recovering from injury. This does have to come with a disclaimer though as some will attempt to abuse it. HGH, pending further examination and research, seems like it could be a pretty fantastic tool. Of course a lot goes into saying that since it is widely considered a performance enhancing drug but the more we look into it, HGH could be something that keeps these players around in the NFL and extends their playing careers and their lives after football, all while helping them recover from catastrophic injuries. Players really are bigger, faster and stronger now. The average offensive lineman back in the 1920s was 6 feet tall and weighed 211 pounds. In the 1970s, offensive linemen stood 6’3 and tipped the scales at 255 pounds. In 2011, the average offensive lineman came in at 6’5 and 310 pounds. Now add to the fact that Trent Williams ran a 4.81 forty-yard dash. I played wide receiver in high school and topped out at 4.75. “Silverback” Williams literally weighed twice as much as me.
To go along with allowing HGH use, I would swiftly disband Thursday night games. Yes we all love as much football as possible, but I’m sure we also love seeing our favorite players be able to play. A normal human body cannot recover from the wreckage that a football player’s body sustained in only a few days. Coaches cannot create good game plans because there isn’t enough practice time to install an actual plan of attack. That issue combined with these players not feeling even 50% healthy is usually why we get such crappy games on Thursday nights.
The HGH usage may be a little farfetched but the concussion protocol is something that needs changing. We need to protect the game we love and I believe the three key points mentioned above can help preserve it. There is even more I would do if I were commissioner of the NFL and I know that there is a certain level of politics that one has to follow in that position of power, but I can dream, can’t I?