Just Shake it Off: Addressing the Issues with NFL Safety

Liam Forrest, Prospect Staff Writer

As the NFL season closed out recently with a Kansas City Chiefs victory in Super Bowl 57, the League shifts to an offseason where major issues need to be addressed. Player safety this season seemed to be worse than ever, despite recent technology which should be ensuring greater protection for players. Injuries seemed to be at an all time high for players. Headlines were made this year with injuries to players like Tua Tagovailoa (Miami Dolphins quarterback) and Damar Hamlin (Buffalo Bills defensive back), yet there were many more injuries that didn’t receive much media coverage.
Head injuries like concussions have always been an issue in football, as later developments of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) for former players has resulted in major health issues. The NFL has attempted to protect players through manufacturing safer helmets, implementing concussion protocols for players, flagging dangerous hits, and using certified athletic trainers (ATC spotters) who try to spot players who may have potential injuries. Yet despite these attempts, the NFL has still been failing to protect their players.
The ATC spotters for example, after reviewing the play, claimed they did not miss New England Patriots wide receiver, Devante Parker’s concussion in a game on December 12th, 2022 where they faced off against the Arizona Cardinals. When Parker took a hit during the game and fell to the ground, the play continued. He got up and stumbled several times while attempting to line up for the next play. It was only when his teammate, Nelson Agholor, noticed his teammate’s condition and screamed to end the play that referees took notice. The NFL refuses to acknowledge any mistakes in their protocol with regards to Parker’s incident, which shows a lack of responsibility and accountability from the League as a whole. They have especially failed in acknowledging how these injuries have affected players later in life, with players lives post-football being majorly affected by their injuries.
Back in November, former Green Bay Packer cornerback and Super Bowl champion, Sam Shields opened up about his regret playing in the NFL. He played seven seasons for Green Bay and one season for the Los Angeles Rams. Between the years 2016 and 2017, Shields missed 14 months due to concussions. Shields claims his head now is, “all mushed together with the concussions” as he expressed in an interview with Dan Le Batard in the South Beach Sessions podcast. He opened up about his struggles with headaches, loss of appetite, and sleep issues as he spoke about the lack of support he received from the Green Bay Packers organization during his injuries. This lack of support is a common pattern within the NFL. We continue to witness a lack of care for their players. The NFL continues to cash in on the short term success of their players, only to toss them aside before the long term impacts of their injuries start to set in.
Byron Jones, a former first round-pick is one example of this short term success. He recently tweeted about his inability to run or jump due to the injuries he has experienced. He placed blame on the team’s doctors provided by the organization, who eagerly hand out pills and injections for these players. Jones did write about the honor of playing in the NFL, but went on to say it is not worth the pain.
The NFL has a major issue on their hands that they must address. It is essential for the NFL to fix how they handle injuries sustained by their players. They should address this not only to protect their players, but to protect the image of the NFL. Hopefully this offseason allows for reflection from the NFL. Hopefully they will take steps to fix issues within individual organizations. Will the image of the NFL remain a place where dreams come true? Or a place where they are destroyed?