Only 11 teams have a winning record. Do you know that that means? Twenty-two teams do not. And the teams that have been ravaged by injuries? Forget it. They’ve got no chance.
“The problem with the league today is guys don’t get to work because of the collective bargaining agreement,” ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “You only get 14 padded practices during the season. They don’t get that work that we used to get. I would look at it from this standpoint: I understand the concussion issue is big and head trauma is big and I get that. It’s serious. But the bottom line is this: No. 1, if you wouldn’t have lied to us for 20-some years, you wouldn’t be in this boat. We all signed up to play the game and let’s embrace the fact that guys get hurt. Let’s embrace the fact that it’s physical. Let’s embrace the fact that you can’t get bums off the highway to play this game. There’s a certain skill set that you have to have. There’s a certain demeanor that you have to have to a degree, and the majority of people can’t play it – and that’s what makes it beautiful.
“The majority of guys would line up to play knowing the inherent risks,” Schlereth continued. “I knew going into this thing (what the risks were). Now, I didn’t know (about) head trauma. There were no such thing as concussions when I played. If you had a head injury, you were a wussy. That’s just the way it came down. Now we know. We’re smarter now. We’re educated now. We understand there’s a difference now. We understand there’s a protocol and we have to get guys healthy. But the bottom line is, guys would sign up to play this game 100 times over because they’d want to and (they weren’t worried about the consequences).
“I knew getting into this that I was doing irreparable damage to my body, and I signed up for that. I have a certain amount of pain that I live with every day, and that’s okay because I made that decision. I wish the league would embrace that. We create these officiated rules under the guise that we give a damn about the guys that play this game. We don’t. We flat-out don’t. But we’re going to act like we care.”
Schlereth cited the Case Keenum incident as an example. Keenum suffered a concussion against the Ravens on Nov. 22, but concussion protocol was not followed immediately after the hit.
“The Rams essentially turned, in my mind, a blind eye to a kid that was asleep on the field,” Schlereth said. “The ref who threw a flag actually stepped over – literally stepped over – Case Keenum while he was on the ground struggling to get to his feet to spot a ball on a 5-yard foul. There’s seven refs on a football field. All of them have the authority to stop a game; none of them did. As a matter of fact, one of the refs went off as the head trainer came on for the Rams and kicked him off the field because he was checking on this guy stumbling around like a drunk on the highway. . . . There’s a concussion-protocol expert on the sideline. Nobody stopped the game. (It was), ‘Let him play. This is great. We love football.’
“There’s not one fine levied, and there’s about a million dollars worth of fines that have been levied to players for playing football – for roughing the passer,” Schlereth continued. “Listen, man, if you run by a quarterback and fart, that’s a 15-yard penalty. That’s the way we’ve started to officiate this game. I wish the competition committee would just embrace it and say, ‘You know what? This game is not good for your health. But it’s exciting and it’s fun to watch and it’s a form of entertainment and we’re not going to legislate contact out of his game. That’s just the way it is.’”
Schlereth said that most players today understand “to a degree” what they’re doing to their bodies, but in no way does he think the league actually cares.
“Anytime you hear Roger Goodell stand up in front of the media and say, ‘Our player safety is our No. 1 concern in this league,’ just laugh at him,” Schlereth said. “Absolutely just laugh. Because it’s such a bunch of nonsense. When you settle a billion-dollar lawsuit and part of that lawsuit is you’re not going to turn over your 25 years of research – because you would see exactly what they did from us and how much they knew – (it’s sad). Maybe there’s something in that 20 years of research that would trigger the next group for researchers to go, ‘Oh my God, we never thought about that.’ That’s how problems are solved. That’s how diseases are cured. That’s how these things move to the next level. And you’re basically barring 25 years of research. You’re barring the information – bcause you know what you did was criminal. That’s just unacceptable.
“So when I hear our league and our commissioner talk about player safety, I laugh in his face,” Schlereth continued. “It’s the biggest bunch of garbage. Oh yeah, safety first – that’s why we’re going to play every Thursday night. On Thursday, I could still barely walk after a game. . . . You guys don’t care because you’re making money. That’s really what it comes down to. I wish you would just come out and say, ‘Hey, money is our No. 1 priority here. That’s what we’re about.’ Because that’s what you’re about.”