Many Approve Of NFL's New Approach, But Add Game's Violent Nature Won't Change

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s either a frightening statistic or not that surprising at all considering the professional stakes.

In an ESPN NFL Nation anonymous survey, 85 percent of the 320 players polled said they would play in the Super Bowl with a concussion.

“We are competitors. We want to go out there and entertain. That’s all we are. We’re entertainers. Guys want to go out there,” said safety Bernard Pollard, now with the Tennessee Titans. “They don’t want to let themselves down. They don’t want to let their teammates down. They want to go out there and play, not thinking about, ‘OK, what can this affect later on down the line?'”

ESPN spoke to several players who admitted taking part in the survey, including veteran linebacker London Fletcher, who played this past season with the Washington Redskins. After asked the survey question, Fletcher’s first comment was reportedly, “Did 100 percent say yes?”

Fletcher, who has played 16 seasons in the NFL, also said it would depend on the severity of the concussion. He said he suffered a concussion during training camp in 2012 and missed a preseason game.

“If it’s something where I’m having just a few symptoms and can hide it from the trainer, then yeah, I would do it,” Fletcher said. “With some of them, you get in a game and you can’t play.”

Among those who said they likely wouldn’t risk their long-term health to play with a concussion was the Green Bay Packers’ Eddie Lacy. The rookie running back missed a game earlier this season with a concussion.

“It depends on if I was able to focus,” Lacy said. “Then I would probably play or go back in. But that’s a serious injury to play with, so I probably wouldn’t chance it.”

The NFL has made it tougher for players to return from a concussion with daily tests they must pass. The protocol is one reason 60 percent of the players polled said the NFL is definitely committed to player safety, ESPN reported.

“They took tremendous steps toward the future of this game as far as violent hits, as far as protecting defenseless players, as far as concussion protocol,” Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “I’m proud of the way they handle concussions. I’m proud of the way the NFL is going.”

But not everyone is convinced the NFL’s actions will guarantee anything going forward. The bottom line is football, especially football at the highest level, is a violent sport and how the game is played like won’t be changed that much going forward.

“Some of it’s more to protect themselves from lawsuits,” Fletcher said. “A lot of that is just to make themselves look right from a public opinion standpoint. I don’t know if they’re truly committed to player safety.”

Pollard said the evolution of the NFL player makes protecting players very important, but that much more difficult to do.

“This is a very violent sport, and you’re just not going to cut down on that,” Pollard said. “You’ve got guys that are coming up every year that are bigger, stronger, faster, quicker. You’re not going to stop these hard hits.”

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