By Ken Reed

If there was any doubt that the NFL values TV ratings over player safety there isn’t any longer following the Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers game that kicked off the the 2016 NFL season this past Thursday.

Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton took several shots to the head in the game, including a brutal blow to the helmet late in the contest that clearly left him woozy. Newton stayed in the game but afterwards said he didn’t remember parts of the last quarter. He also said doctors were asking him questions after the game. When asked what those questions were, he said he couldn’t remember them all. Reportedly, Newton was checked not once, not twice, not three times, but four times after the game.

Here’s my question for those doctors: If you had enough concern to check him and ask him concussion-related questions after the game, why didn’t you check him and ask him those questions during the game, before he was allowed to continue to play?

The NFL supposedly made changes to its concussion protocol for this season in an effort to catch more potential concussions. The league is now supposed to have game officials, coaches, trainers, doctors, and what the NFL calls “unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants,” trained to spot possible brain trauma and injuries during games.

Let’s speak the truth here: The NFL’s concussion protocol is nothing but a disingenuous PR strategy. They want you to think that the league cares about brain injuries. What they really care about are three things: 1) exciting games, 2) exciting finishes and 3) big TV ratings (read: money). Bingo, the Broncos-Panthers game checked-off all three of those for the league’s football barons.

Anyone watching the Broncos-Panthers game could tell Newton received a vicious blow to the helmet late in the 4th quarter and that he reacted in a way that made one think a concussion might’ve occurred. Anyone that is except the game officials, coaches, doctors, trainers and unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants at the game.

Last November, St. Louis Rams’ quarterback Case Keenum was allowed to stay in the game with visible signs of a concussion. Supposedly, the NFL wasn’t going to allow that to happen again. Well, that claim lasted until opening night this season.

The NFL has now said that they are going to investigate whether or not the concussion protocol was followed properly during the Broncos-Panthers game. Can’t wait to hear the public relations BS that follows this “investigation.”

Get this, if the Panthers are found to have improperly followed the NFL’s concussion protocol following this investigation, they could be fined $150,000 for a first-time offense. That’s right, $150,000! Big whoopee. That figure amounts to less than 2,000 seats sold at the NFL’s average ticket price of $85.83. Do you think the Panthers would risk having to pay a fine of that amount in order to keep their All-Pro quarterback in a tight game down the stretch?

The average NFL replay review takes about three and a half minutes these days. Wouldn’t it have been worth it to have spent at least three and a half minutes checking Newton’s health on the field after he received that late 4th quarter blow to the head?

Apparently, the NFL’s answer is a loud “No.”

Let there no longer be any doubt whatsoever that the NFL values money a lot more than it does player safety.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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