The ball is snapped, you see the lineman firing off the ball. Out of the corner of your eye, you see the backside guard pulling, you instinctively know the ball is coming your way. Your eyes glance to your right, you see the tight end blocking down, it’s time to fit the run. You break towards the line of scrimmage, knowing the backside guard is pulling down the line like a train at full speed. You know you need to cut the guard to disrupt the play. What you didn’t know is that he is anticipating it, and he’s coming low as well. It happens so fast, crossing the threshold of the line, you go low. In a split second, everything goes black. You’re lying on the ground, uncertain of what just happened. Grass sticking through your face mask, and in one motion you slowly push the ground away, and you’re now on your feet. Looking around you see teammates, and you realize what just happened. You got your bell rung and you’re playing football.
Any person that ever played football has experienced this sensation of uncertainty at least once. Let’s not sugar coat this, it’s the feeling you experience when you get a concussion playing football. Vontaze Burfict experienced this the last time the Bengals played the Steelers when he and the 6’5” 316 pound David DeCastro met head to head in the football game. The real question is, “how was Burfict allowed to finish the game?” I watched an NFL LB stagger, like a toddler who just started walking, after this vicious collision. While walking off the field you could tell by his body language that he was fighting with trainers telling them he was okay. The fact of the matter is that anyone that has ever played football can tell you he got his bell rung. With today’s medical knowledge of concussions and CTE, how in the world was Burfict cleared to continue to play in a football game?
There had to be someone on the sideline that knew Burfict suffered a concussion. Not only was his personal well-being being threatened by him continuing to play, what message was being sent to thousands of kids across the country? With years of experience playing football at the high school and collegiate level, I am certainly not one that wants the game watered down or the level of physicality lowered. However, with that being said, it is very important to keep player safety in mind. Not only at the NFL level, but all the way through the ranks to the Pop Warner and Pee Wee levels. Let’s be frank, there is without a doubt a trickle-down effect in football. Not only do we have to keep NFL players’ safety in mind, we need to keep young players in mind with regards to safety and the fundamentals of football and tackling. People need to be held accountable at the NFL level. Every level of football tries to mimic what they see displayed by the professionals on Sunday afternoon. The NFL cannot turn a blind eye to players playing or continuing games after suffering a concussion. Someone needs to be held accountable. It has to start at the top, and it will trickle-down throughout football.