Souhan: NFL violence can be curbed without hurting popularity

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 18, 2012 - 11:40 AM
hide

The NFL must develop a soft helmet, because the current hard-shelled helmet is too easily used as a weapon on the field.

Photo: Denis Poroy, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The NFL can't continue down its current path in good conscience, and it might not be able to survive financially or legally as evidence ever more specifically reveals that tackle football damages brains, and squadrons of former players file lawsuits against the league.

How can the most popular sport in American history maintain its status while protecting its players and its future?

1. Change the helmet. The encompassing, beautifully decorated, hard-shelled helmet is unique to football. It has become a pervasive symbol. It has also become a weapon.

The NFL must develop a soft helmet. Rugby, lacrosse and hockey all feature hard checking, but players in those sports know it would be foolish and dangerous to lead with their heads. So they don't.

2. Increase penalties. Whatever the composition of the helmet, the league must eliminate all hits with and to the head. If players are punished severely enough, they will adapt. Throw anyone hitting with or to the head out of the game, and suspend him for the following game.

Take away his paycheck for those two games. They will learn fast.

3. Decrease pad size. Huge shoulder pads make players feel impervious. Smaller pads would lessen the willingness of defenders to launch themselves into offensive players and increase the popularity of old-fashioned form tackling.

4. Institute stricter testing. One of the funniest ongoing jokes in American sports is that baseball has been flayed in the court of public opinion for allowing performance-enhancing drugs to alter the game, while hulks of previously unimaginable proportions have increased the popularity of the NFL.

Force equals mass times acceleration. Reduce the size and speed of chemically altered players and you will reduce trauma.

5. Increase field size. A longer and/or wider field would make smaller, quicker players more valuable and create need for defenders who are valued more for coverage skills and sure tackling than hitting.

6. Call unnecessary roughness. The rule is already on the books. It just needs to be applied more liberally, and literally. If a defender uses more force than necessary to bring down an opponent or jar loose a pass, make an example of him, and keep making examples until the player learns.

7. Pay players more. It's more clear than ever that NFL players are sacrificing their bodies for our enjoyment. They are the engine that drives an incredibly popular and lucrative business. They deserve to be paid far more than they currently make.

We also have learned that a frightening number of NFL players go broke once they leave the league, so a portion of their raises should be put into a retirement fund that can't be touched until they've been out of the league for a few years, at which point they might be better prepared to handle their finances responsibly.

8. Educate rookies. "Education" in these cases often sounds better than it is, but the NFL should at least accept the responsibility for explaining the risks of playing in the league to prospective players.

The NFL should work in conjunction with the players union to graphically explain what happens to a player's body and brain if he plays football for a living.

9. Eliminate celebration of violence. The NFL has great influence with its rightsholders, and its rightsholders determine what we see on broadcasts and highlight shows. It wasn't long ago that ESPN and Fox were celebrating violent hits. The pendulum should continue to swing toward responsible broadcasting.

When a player is injured with a violent hit, that's not a highlight, it's a new development in an ongoing news story that should be examined and critiqued.

10. Fire old-school broadcasters. Enough with the tales of glory from the good old days of blood-and-guts football. It's not nostalgic to remember when players gouged each other's eyes in piles and clotheslined enemies; it's irresponsible.

Take a hint from two of the best analysts in the game: Troy Aikman and Cris Collinsworth. They're smart and prescient and refuse to glorify mindless violence.

The NFL can become less violent and survive. It can't be assured of remaining this violent and surviving.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Vilma sues NFL commissioner over comments

    Friday May 18, 2012

    Suspended Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma filed a defamation lawsuit Thursday against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, claiming the league's top executive made false statements that tarnished Vilma's reputation and hindered his...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - C. Frias 2:10 PM
Colorado - J. De La Rosa
San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 2:40 PM
Arizona - A. Chafin
Boston - C. Buchholz 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano
Toronto - J. Happ 6:05 PM
Baltimore - B. Norris
Washington - B. Treinen 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Wood
Miami - H. Alvarez 6:10 PM
NY Mets - D. Gee
NY Yankees - B. McCarthy 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - A. Cobb
Cincinnati - D. Corcino 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks
Chicago WSox - C. Sale 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Cleveland - C. Carrasco 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Detroit - D. Price 7:10 PM
Minnesota - K. Gibson
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 7:15 PM
St. Louis - A. Wainwright
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Texas - D. Holland 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you support Wednesday's decision to sideline Adrian Peterson again?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close