PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If there is to be a 2011 NFL season (if the collective bargaining agreement is approved), it will be a long season. Eighteen games instead of 16, two pre-season, and play-off games and a Super Bowl to follow. Which is enough to change the question from whether or not it’s a good idea to will there be enough players standing when the length of the season approaches double figures?
In the current season, players are dropping like flies and there’s talk of suspensions for violent hits. Though the campaign is only in it seventh week, almost every team has been affected. Let us count the ways.
We are most familiar with the Eagles, who have lost five players to concussions. The memorable clash of Atlanta’s Dunta Robinson and DeSean Jackson has provoked a lot of the possible suspension talk. Robinson launched himself head-first at a defenseless player, sparking much of the conversation. Jackson almost surely will miss this week’s game in Tennessee.
In the Baltimore-New England game, Ravens tight end, Todd Heap, was flattened by Patriots’ safety, Brandon Merriweather. And Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison smashed Cleveland’s Mohammed Massaquoi, adding to the conversation and a possible review by the league.
NFL football has become the game of choice on the American sports scene and after a long run or a long pass for a score, a battering ram smash of player-on-player will bring the crowd to its feet every time. But it also raises the deal that sometimes it just might get out of hand.
I did hear Eagle tight end, Brent Celek, say on the air the other night that he and his mates play the game out of personal choice, for its glamour and wealth – which is true. But the fans must pay higher and higher ticket prices. Players’ salaries get bigger and bigger. And the owners want a larger share of the pie. But down a road that may be too long to see, lies the sorry possibility of disabling injury as the seasons become longer and longer.
Check out some of the injuries that occurred just last week: Tennessee back-up quarterback Vince Young may miss the upcoming Eagles game. He was flattened last Sunday on the second series of downs. Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard – a concussion. Detroit linebacker Zach Follet – a helmet to helmet hit in the Lions-Giants game. Redskins tight end Chris Colley – concussion. Green Bay tight end, Jermichael Finley, sent to the injured list, his season over. And on and on.
It is not fiction that the players keep getting bigger and faster as the seasons keep getting longer and longer. I broadcasted the Eagles games in the 60’s, the last time they won the championship.
I still have my 1960 play-by-play roster sheets and three-deep charts. And a comparison to today’s players in height and weight is amazing. Many came back last month for the Eagles championship reunion. It was good to see them and those who have survived in tough times. It is interesting to remember that they played only 12 game seasons.
By: Bill Campbell