Bigger, stronger and faster football players are going to kill the sport.
At least that’s what Lem Barney believes.
”The game is becoming more deadly today,” the Pro Football Hall of Famer said Friday. ”It’s a great game. I think it’s the greatest game if you like gladiators. It’s the greatest game for yesteryear’s gladiators. But I can see in the next 10 to maybe 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether.”
Barney shared his thoughts at the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy while sitting next to coaches such as Michigan’s Brady Hoke, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Wisconsin’s Gary Anderson along with Denver Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson.
The camp’s co-founder, Curtis Blackwell, said his goal was to conduct baseline tests on about 600 high school players this week so that the data was available if any of them have head injuries during the season.
Barney is among the hundreds of former football players suing the NFL over how it handled head injuries.
”I found out after I was out of the game that I had seven, maybe eight concussions,” he said.
While none of the coaches backed Barney’s belief that football won’t exist in a decade or two, Vickerson said the notion isn’t far-fetched.
”They’re trying to make the game safer, but it’s a gladiators’ sport and there’s only so much safety you can bring to it,” Vickerson said. ”The best thing we can do is give these kids tools to learn how to tackle the right away.”
Concussion awareness was part of the program for high school football players, who packed an auditorium as Dantonio used practice video to show how the Spartans are taught to avoid head injuries.
”Tackling is not a science, it’s an art,” Dantonio said.
Hoke, who praised Dantonio for his presentation, said providing instruction is one way to combat the dangers of playing fast, hard-hitting football.
”Is it a contact game, sometimes violent? There’s no question,” Hoke said. ”But at the same time, I think there are better ways that we can continue to teach.”