We Must Change the Culture of Professional Football
We must change NFL culture, so that the focus is on outscoring your opponent, not destroying him
February 1, 2013
The game of football has evolved over the years. During the early part of the game's progression, the game was based entirely on outscoring your opponents on offense, and preventing your opponents from scoring on defense. Players were taught to block and tackle with their shoulders. Defense was not geared to "punish" the opponents. It was designed to keep them out of the end zone.
My football "career" began in 1970 as an 11-year-old 7th grader playing for the champion West Stockton Bear Cubs Pee Wee Pop Warner team, in Stockton, Calif. It culminated 12 years later as a member of the 1981 San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl championship team. During that journey I played on a championship Pop Warner team, an undefeated, nationally ranked A.A. Stagg high squad in 1975, a 1976 Big 8 Championship team at Colorado, and in the 1977 Orange Bowl. I loved the game.
During that journey we were always taught to stick your face in the numbers or you would break your neck. We were led to believe that the safest way to block and tackle was to use your head/brain as a weapon to deliver blows.
During my rookie season with the 49ers in 1980, I sustained a major concussion in the first quarter of a Dallas game. The trainers and doctors laughingly told me later in the week when my memory returned that I went through 20-plus smelling salts to keep me on the field. I never missed a play or practice. Early in the following 1981 Super Bowl season I developed hydrocephalus and underwent emergency VP Shunt brain surgery. I've now survived nine emergency VP Shunt brain surgeries, grand mal seizures for 30-plus years and still don't qualify for NFL benefits. I formed The Visger Group, Traumatic Brain Injury Consulting, to help others avoid the carnage my family has faced, and have been on a mission to take the head out of the game. Dr. Ellenbogen, head of the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Injury Group approached me two years ago for suggested rule changes to reduce traumatic brain injuries in football. Many of my suggestions have been implemented.
We need to change the culture of the game. Start linemen in 2-point stances, major penalties for contact above the shoulder pads, no more "kill shots" by defensive backs, and focus on outscoring your opponent, not destroying him.