Words by Liam Grimley
And so the NFL has again fallen to the early injury curse, with the cruel part of the game being as indiscriminate as ever. This off-season, the NFL leaned into the false narrative (no pun intended) that the league is scripted.
If it was then by week 3 they’d have caused a larger boycott than Aquaman 2 may receive! The two obvious elephants in the room are, of course, Aaron Rodgers and Nick Chubb, who both will miss their respective seasons. Chubb suffered a horrifying knee injury on Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers with fears of dislocation and multiple ligament tears circling the running back. Rodgers, just four snaps into his time as a New York Jet, completely snapped his achilles tendon, after which he was lucky to stand (however briefly).
As a result, the NFLPA has called for artificial turf to be removed from stadiums due to increased risk of injury to players. Whilst I agree to some extent, due to the season of football, this may not resolve every injury concern, or even reduce all injury, it just might shift the problem.
At this point it is to point out that 18 teams already use real grass on playing surfaces, this would be for the remaining 14 teams that use an artificial playing surface. With the installation of real turf across the grounds, this will cause increased maintenance of the playing surface and mid-game repair of the pitch. How many of us, playing any sport, have stepped on a dodgy bit of sod and either slipped or twisted ourselves onto the physio table.
Granted the climate may be different across the US but come those snowy days in Buffalo, or those cold nights in Seattle, these will present issues for teams who are not used to playing these conditions every week. The other issue would be logistics, this change would be great for future seasons but what are players in the here and now meant to do?
More needs to be done in regards of player safety and tackle protocol, NFL careers are short enough as is without risking potentially life-altering injuries.
It’s time for the NFLPA and the league to sit down with ex and current pros, college players and coaches to discuss a revised tackle policy that protects both sides of the ball. The issue is not contact, its post-contact, it’s taking the player to the ground safely and limiting, if not completely eradicating, serious injury potential.
To those people who think that I am trying to turn football into a non-contact sport, that’s the last thing I want to do. As a defensive tackle myself, there’s nothing I love more than a big hit or a well-timed sack. What I want to see is more aftercare by tacklers. This month the Rugby World Cup is dominating the sports scene and you can see the steps the International Rugby Board has taken to mitigate the risk of serious injuries.
Perhaps it’s time we took a leaf from their book and start to better look out for those who are putting their bodies on the line for the sport they love.
If the NFL doesn’t want to see more serious injuries, like Chubb and Rodgers, then they need to act holistically and promptly, or more ‘storylines’ will come to an abrupt end.