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An increase in player safety is a necessary evil

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The amount of injuries in the NFL has been a source of great concern the past few years, and with good reason.

Facing congressional hearings and hundreds of lawsuits brought against the NFL by thousands of former players, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has had no choice but to make a strong effort to improve player safety.

On Feb. 1, Goddell spoke at the annual State of the NFL press conference. During his speech, Goodell made a pledge to “do anything to make the game safer and better,” and it would be foolish to say he hadn’t to that point.

A focus on head trauma, particularly the kind that lead to concussions, has been the driving force behind the string of rule changes and fines that are supposed to help curb the amount of dangerous plays on the gridiron.

Rules for “defenseless players” have expanded to include punters, kickers, quarterbacks and even some defensive players on certain plays, which admittedly takes some of the contact out of full contact football. However, this is just the new direction football is going to have to take.

When asked whether or not he’d allow his hypothetical son to play football, President Barack Obama told the New Republic that he’d have to think long and hard on the decision. When has the President of the United States ever openly questioned the value of football?

Football is as American as apple pie. If the president is openly questioning the sport’s safety, then the NFL is in some serious trouble.

With every alteration, the NFL runs the risk of alienating football traditionalist who considers blood, sweat and tears as a vital part of the game.

At the same time recent tragedies believed to be caused by repeated head trauma, like Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide, or Junior Seau’s suicide, show that something needs to be done to protect the long term health of players.

The NFL has begun research on improving helmet technology and will require all players to wear protective thigh pads and knee pads beginning in the 2013 season, which is just a start to the changes that might happen in the near future.

The NFL is also doing everything in its power to take the head out of football, which includes fines and suspensions for head-to-head collisions and a complete refocus on tackling fundamentals.

If rule changes result in a league where contact and physicality is second to safety, then so be it.

Every year players get bigger, faster and stronger. The competition gets tougher, and the hits get harder. For the next few years, the NFL needs to slow down, and focus on getting safer.

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An increase in player safety is a necessary evil