Sunday Morning QB: Concussions biggest threat to the NFL's future

The future of football might eventually be defined by the tears running down Luke Kuechly’s distraught face.

Any parent of a middle school or high school football player, the next generation, watching Kuechly crying after taking a hit to the head Thursday night can’t help but agonize over signing the permission slip to allow their son to play.

Kuechly, the Panthers All-Pro linebacker and one of the most popular players in the NFL, sat on the field in Charlotte sobbing. He was having trouble breathing. He was helped onto a cart and taken off with fans screaming, “Luuuke.”

Front page of the New York Daily News for January 30, 2016

Front page of the New York Daily News for January 30, 2016

(New York Daily News)

“I thought it was foot, knee,” Cam Newton said. “I didn’t know it was his head. I’m praying for him, for a speedy recovery.”

Luke Kuechly is the new face of the NFL’s concussion problem

Kuechly suffered a concussion in the first game of the 2015 season, the Panthers’ Super Bowl season, and missed three games. He is now back in the concussion protocol and would be the sixth member of the Panthers, including Newton, to suffer a concussion this season.

He did not take a devastating hit. Saints running back Tim Hightower’s helmet hit the bottom part of Kuechly’s facemask before making contact with his chest. From behind, teammate Thomas Davis’ helmet glanced off Kuechly’s helmet.

Back page of the New York Daily News for March 25, 2016

Back page of the New York Daily News for March 25, 2016

(New York Daily News)

At first, he was lying on the field with his fingers wrapped around his facemask. He sat up for an extended period with the NBC cameras clearly showing the sweat mixing with the tears and Kuechly was so upset he was having trouble catching his breath as if he were hyperventilating.

Kuechly is the Panthers leader. He told his teammates to keep fighting. He is so popular his jersey was the second largest seller in the league last season behind Tom Brady’s. On Friday, he was pictured smiling in the Panthers locker room, so that is good news.

Panthers LB Luke Kuechly carted off field in tears

Concussions are the biggest threat to the NFL’s future. It’s not declining TV ratings, bad officiating, the crackdown on excessive celebrations or the Jets inability to find a quarterback.

The NFL doesn’t have an issue. It doesn’t have a problem. It has a crisis.

Back page of the New York Daily News for March 15, 2016

Back page of the New York Daily News for March 15, 2016

(New York Daily News)

It just committed $100 million for research to provide an engineering road map to better helmets.

Roger Goodell played high school football and a knee injury prevented him from playing in college. He suffered one concussion in high school − playing baseball. His twin daughters play lacrosse, which can also be a dangerous sport. When Goodell is on the sidelines watching his girls play or just hanging out watching youth football on Saturdays in Bronxville − some of his former teammates are coaching the teams − he speaks to parents.

“I’m a huge person in participating in sports,” Goodell told me when he was my guest at WFAN’s Chalk Talk series. “There are risks in contact sports. There’s risk in football to injuries. You have to do what you can to manage that. That is a personal decision ultimately. I believe that the game of football has taught me values and lessons. I wouldn’t give back a single moment of playing football − because it taught me about teamwork, it taught me about perseverance, it taught me about myself. It was a game, of all the sports I played, I didn’t get those same values out of that.”

Goodell said studies have shown the average life span of an NFL player is three years longer than the average man. “We continue to address retired player issues,” he said. “We’ve made significant progress on that. We will continue to make sure we help our retired players. But also, the better our protocols now, the better the medical treatment for our players today, the better their life is going to be beyond that. To us, it’s about physical health, mental health, every aspect of their life. We want to give them the tools and ability to move on to a life that is very productive. So for me, football was a game, if I could have played it longer, I would have. I just wasn’t that good, I guess.”

Even with the NFL committed to making the game safer, it a violent collision sport played by big guys who run fast and have bad intentions. The reality is when Kuechly realizes he likely suffered another concussion, he’s on the field crying. That’s an even image that is going to be difficult for the NFL to overcome.

MILE-HIGH ROMO

Can Tony Romo be Peyton Manning 2.0 in Denver?

Assuming Romo doesn’t get his job back from Dak Prescott, I can’t see him staying in Dallas next season as a backup. He’s wants to star and has quality football left in him.

John Elway set the blueprint in Denver and I think he could do it again with Romo.

Elway won Super Bowls in his final two seasons when he was 37 and 38 years old. He signed Manning in 2012 and the last game of his career, seven weeks before his 40th birthday, was a Super Bowl championship.

Romo will be 37 in April. Last season, he broke his collarbone twice. He will be in uniform for the first time Sunday, as a backup to Prescott, after suffering a compression fracture in a preseason game in Seattle.

Is he brittle? Yes. Is he any more brittle than Manningwhen he got to Denver after he missed the entire 2011 season following his fourth neck surgery? No.

Elway has a Super Bowl defense and two kid quarterbacks. Trevor Siemian is No. 25 in the league in passing. Paxton Lynch is a project. Elway is not going to sacrifice the best years of Super Bowl MVP Von Miller developing a quarterback. Romo can step in and win right away.

TONY WON’T JET IN

Romo to the Jets makes little sense. It could be Brett Favre all over again, the biggest difference being that Favre was an ironman who never missed any starts. Besides, Romo is going to want to go where he can win right away. The Jets are no longer a win-now team.

History does repeat itself: Drew Bledsoe lost his job in New England to Tom Brady in 2001 due to injury. He lost his job to Romo in Dallas in 2006 due to poor play. Now Romo has lost his job to Prescott in Dallas. Neither Bledsoe nor Romo were given a chance to win back their jobs in practice once they were healthy. Bledsoe complained about it and the FOBs − Friends of Bledsoe −in the Patriots locker room were not happy. Romo didn’t complain after the Cowboys told him he would not be allowed to compete for his job and issued a very classy statement on Tuesday. He expressed his disappointment at not getting on the field to take over the team that Prescott has led to an 8-1 record and at the same time saying he will support him.

Will Romo get another chance this season with the Cowboys?

If Prescott suffers an injury, Romo will get back on the field. But it’s going to take more than one bad game for Prescott to be benched. So far, he has worked his way through the first nine games without a slump. Jerry Jones is very close to Romo, so it must have been painful to see the anguish on Romo’s face when he issued his statement.

“Getting hurt when you feel like you have the best team you’ve ever had was a soul crushing moment for me,” Romo said.

He is a good guy and has been good for the NFL. To hear him say, “It’s a dark place. Probably the darkest it’s ever been,” shows how tough this has been on him.

L.A. GOFF

Jared Goff, the overall No. 1 pick in the draft, gets his start Sunday at home against the Dolphins. It’s game No. 10 and the Rams are 4-5. Eli Manning made his first start in his rookie year in 2004 in the Giants 10th game. They were 5-4. He lost his first six starts. Goff didn’t take a snap in Los Angeles’ first nine games. Manning threw nine passes in the season opener that year − he was crushed on one play near the goal line by Jerome McDougle − and appeared in one other game without attempting a pass before Tom Coughlin named him to start after Kurt Warner had played poorly in back-to-back games. Goff wasn’t pinned to the bench by Case Keenum, the No. 30 rated passer in the league. He just wasn’t ready. I felt it might be awhile before he digested the playbook when he admitted on “Hark Knocks” that he was not aware the sun set in the west. Goff is from California. “I don’t want to say it’s a new era, it’s a new start, but in a lot of ways it is,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. Why now? Rams fans are thrilled to have the team back in Los Angeles, but there were already tired of watching Keenum play. They wanted the kid.

BRADY IN THE BAY

Tom Brady taped the humorous Foot Locker “Week of Greatness” commercial during his four-week Deflategate suspension and the ad makes it pretty clear he is still not admitting any wrongdoing. The commercial questions why if you’re doing something great that people question you.

“Just because something’s great year after year doesn’t mean anything’s going on. Why can’t some things just be great? Starts with questions and then questions turns into assumptions and then assumptions turn into vacations. Why would you punish the “Week of Greatness” for something that never even happened?”

Brady doesn’t flood the market with commercials like Manning, but this one sent a pretty strong message to Goodell. Why did he agree to do it? “I don’t know exactly what was going through my mind when I made the decision,” Brady laughed. Brady, who is from San Mateo, right outside of San Francisco, grew up a huge fan of the 49ers and Joe Montana and Steve Young. On Sunday, he plays the first game of his career on the road against the Niners on a day the 49ers are honoring many of their past greats. The Patriots last played in San Francisco in 2008, but Brady was out for the year with a torn ACL. He will have a lot of family and friends at the game. He arranged for a lot of tickets.

“More than ever,” he said. “I’m happy to do it. I may never get the opportunity again, so it’s nice to have all the support. I’ve never had a chance to play in front of my family like this. I’ve never had a chance to play in front of my friends.”

He attended “The Catch” game at Candlestick Park in 1982 when he was four years old. His family was season ticket holders. Brady has a 49ers foam finger in his office. He wanted to be drafted by the 49ers. They worked him out before the 2000 draft., but took Hofstra’s Gio Carmazzi in the third round. That was a mistake.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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