The Buffalo Bills have been an interesting franchise to follow since the NFL 2014-2015 season kicked off. Second year head coach Rex Ryan always manages to grab headlines, somehow overshadowing the talented roster they have assembled. A roster with the likes of players like Sammy Watkins, Marcell Dareus, and LeSean McCoy to name a few.
The most recent headlines out of Buffalo derive from comments made by General Manager Doug Whaley. During a radio appearance on WGR-AM, he shared his thoughts on a few football related topics, some which included his team.
Whaley was asked if the Bills were worried Sammy Wakins, their top wideout was injury-prone which he was quoted saying the following
” I wouldn’t say that [he’s injury prone] if you look at his game log, he’s only missed three games. So is he injury prone? I wouldn’t say that. Are things going to come up with a guy like this? We hope that it gets limited in the future, but it’s the game of football.”
Nothing of interest here, Whaley states what any rational football executive could come up with.But then the interview becomes big news when Whaley goes on to share his thoughts about the game in general.
“And injuries are part of it and it is a violent game that I personally don’t think humans are supposed to play and these things are going to come up. But we trust in our medical staff and we trust in each individual athlete to do what they have to do to get back on the field.”
Clearly the part about humans not being made to play football is what everyone has been discussing on sports shows everywhere. Before discussing those statements and how it impacted me, let it be known that Whaley has backtracked a bit on his comments recently stating that he used ” A poor choice of words” which doesn’t really clear things up.
Whaley made a very fair point if you think about the game we know and love. For example, let’s start with the growing narratives about the game nationally & internationally. That there are some people who view American football to be such a violent, unnecessary game they don’t want their friends, son nor daughter to participate in.
To provide some context from a personal level, I have played organized football for years even made it to the collegiate level. Granted it was Division III, but in terms of total years devoted to the game of football is around ten plus. I mention this to share my experience on what the game does to your body.
Shortly after summer practice begun I found myself with a concussion. It was the first of my career and I had know idea how bad the side effects would be. It was by far the scariest time in my life. I became very depressed, couldn’t eat, and isolated as I was forced to be away from my teammates. All of which had me thinking, that I “didn’t sign up for that”. The game is violet and demanding, no denying that.
The NFL and the recent CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) issues are a prime example of information players may not have been privy to. There have been men who have played at the highest level who have taken their own lives because of CTE and other breakdowns of the body. This is not the time to mention every tragic story about players who have taken their life or lives of others, but the tragedy involving Jovan Belcher comes to mind.
It also should have been the wake up call for the the powers that be in football. Possibly realizing that this game is too much on the bodies of the men that play and the younger men who look to follow in their footsteps. It’s easy for owners and commissioners to make statements about how tragic moments like Belcher are horrible because not many of them have played. Their teams, brands, bodies and especially their pockets all stays intact. Leaving those that play the game and their loved ones in their wake. Is all of this worth it for 60 minutes of football?
This is not a proclamation or a campaign to stop playing football, in fact I still love the game as a fan and media member now. However, I don’t choose to forget the price that is and has been paid for the sake of entertainment.
My hope is that players listen to what Whaley said, taking it as a reminder that they need to protect themselves on the field. The game doesn’t care about you the way you care about it. The NFL, NCAA, and even semi-professional leagues all will be around after your gone.
It means us as the fans, the families of players and those in suits need to do better and want better for those that are playing. No more coverups about what the leagues know, ask why the equipment isn’t constantly being improved to lessen brain damage. Ask the doctors to do more when you’re told that you have a concussion and sent home with an note. These types of tragedies shouldn’t continued.