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A Paralyzing Conclusion

Football is a Contact Sport. Just about everyone on the planet knows it. The players know it. It comes with the job and they are compensated well because of it. The fans know it. It's part of the allure, as well as a release for pent up frustration or aggression. The fact that the National Football League levied significant fines on James Harrison, Dunta Robinson and Brandon Meriweather last week has drawn outbursts from players, fans, and the media. But where is this all coming from?

The league never did a thing when Jack Tatum paralyzed Darryl Stingley on August 12, 1978. Nor did the NFL waver in it's stance when Mike Utley was paralyzed on November 17, 1991. Reggie Brown  (December 21, 1997), and Kevin Everett (September 9, 2007) are now able to walk again, but their careers were ended regardless. So why is this happening today?

Yesterday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams informing them that more significant discipline, including suspensions, will be imposed on players that strike an opponent in the head or neck area in violation of the rules.

The NFL’s crackdown on helmet to helmet collisions to suppress head and spinal injuries has had a mixed reception. Former Bronco Mark Schlereth called the league hypocritical.

The events are disconcerting to Ray Lewis

"My opinion is play the game like that game is supposed to be played, and whatever happens happens."

Said Joey Porter

"That’s what our game is about. It’s a gladiator sport."

The NFL is trying to play both sides of the fence here. They will make their revenue throughTV Ratings by trying to walk the thin line between the Entertainment factor and player safety. But the fact is, the players are bigger and faster, and the equipment is lighter. Heck, there are many players that sacrifice most of the protective gear to retain their speed.

There are other factors at work here and this development isn't as blind-siding as it sounds. It has only escalated in the past week or two, but it really goes further back than that.

May 30, 2007, It was reported that 

According to the NFL News report, NFL and union officials say that the connection between NFL players and Alzheimer's is "anecdotal rather than scientific."

About a year ago, there was a Congressional Judiciary hearing on "Legal Issues Relating to Football Head Injuries." Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, scheduled the hearing to examine the sport's reaction in dealing with findings by some medical experts that repeated concussions and brain trauma suffered by players can produce an increased risk of dementia and other memory-related diseases later in life.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) questioned  Commissioner  Goodell sharply about what the league is doing for retired players. She said the league has "not taken seriously your responsibility to players" and urged Congress to consider repealing the sport's exemption from federal antitrust laws.

Dr. Gay Culverhouse, daughter of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse, had some of the sharpest comments during the hearing. She has been an advocate for former NFL players and even founded Gay Culverhouse Players’ Outreach Program which provides expanded services to retired players. Dr. Culverhouse said that team doctors in the NFL are hired by the team, and are not advocates for players' health.

"We've got to stop that. . . . Something has to be done about this medical care. You cannot leave it in the hands of the team physician to make these decisions."

Last month, Scientists found evidence connecting head injuries in athletes to a condition that mimics Lou Gehrig's disease.

A few days ago, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to expand the ‘88 PLAN’ Coverage to former players with ALS (Lou Gehrig Disease). If you're not familiar with the '88 PLAN', I wrote about it here.The NFL Pension and Disability Plan. Anyway, the two sides acknowledged that concussions are commonplace in the League and are trying to help those retirees that are suffering their effects. Especially after "New Evidence Links Football and Progressive Brain Damage" was proven as fact. To date, the "88 Plan" has awarded $9.7 million toward the care of 132 former NFL players. If you are interested, here is the transcript from the News Conference. 

This past week (10/16), at the New Meadowlands Stadium, a young man named Eric LeGrand was left paralyzed from the neck down during a game between the Scarlett Knights and Army. Let's see, the distance between New Meadowlands and the NFL Headquarters is less than 10 miles away.

So you tell me, is the proximity of this incident and the three stringent fines over the past week coincidental?

Or is it just about the money.