Last week, I had a few things to say about Jerry Jones’ comment that we needed “more data” to decide if playing football leads to CTE. So when KLTV-Tyler, Texas called me about doing an interview regarding concussions and the NFL, I accepted. I wanted to continue…
an intelligent dialogue on the topic in the hopes of everyone winning – the players, the fans, and the League.
The only way problems are resolved is by bringing them to the forefront and having intelligent conversations about them. I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again. Knowing about the long-term impact of multiple concussions would probably not have stopped most players I know from playing the game. And that line starts with me. However, it would certainly have made us take more precautions. That’s a reasonable statement & and that was all I intended to convey in the interview.
Unfortunately, the sensational manner in which KLTV constructed the interview made it appear as if I wished to convey much more. They wove in old video footage of Troy Aikman looking dazed on the sideline, and Steve Young laid out cold on the field. Every time I stopped to listen to the reporter or ponder a thought, they took ultra-close-up shots of my head and did everything but have little cartoon birdies flying around it. They also took close-ups up my hands, my watch, my Super Bowl ring…as if to say, “This poor, embattled gridiron veteran. I wonder if he thinks it was worth it?” In short, I thought the end product made it look like I was on a rampage against the NFL. I’m not.
From what I’ve seen, Roger Goodell doesn’t skirt the concussion issue. Naturally, he talks more about what the League is doing now and what it will do in the future than what it has done in the past. That’s smart. He’s the CEO of a major corporation. Who wouldn’t do that? But at least he doesn’t insult our intelligence by trying to convince us that football causes concussions, and concussions cause CTE, but football doesn’t cause CTE. He lets Jerry do that.
Besides, the worst of what happened to players with regard to concussions happened before Goodell ever became Commissioner. From what I’ve seen, for the most part, he has said the right things: we need to change rules and enhance protective gear to improve player safety.
I have no beef with Goodell. I’ve met the man, and he seems like a decent guy. He told me his door is always open, and I believe him. The NFL owns a day of the week every Fall and parts of several other days. In addition to being constantly battered (no pun intended) about the concussion issue, Goddell has the added benefit of bearing the media brunt of employing a number of players who “weren’t raised right.” He makes a lot of money, but that still has to get old.
Goodell is one man, and he is no more “personally responsible” for everything wrong with the NFL than the president is personally responsible for everything wrong with America. People act as if Goodell is a “bad parent” when one of his players misbehaves. It’s Goodell’s fault when a player hits a woman or child. It’s Goodell’s fault when a player smokes a joint. It’s Goodell’s fault when a player doesn’t look both ways before crossing the street. I think that’s a bunch of garbage. People need to take personal accountability for their actions. I have no problem with Goodell. I don’t know him well enough one way or the other. But KLTV sure tried to make it LOOK like I have a problem with Goodell.
Unfortunately, as is case with other controversial topics like race relations, just when everyone is coming together and things are improving, someone has to throw gasoline on the fire. After all, no one likes good news. Good news doesn’t drive viewership, which doesn’t sell advertising, which doesn’t make anyone any money. But there are truckloads of money to be made when people are angry and throwing stones at one another.
The reporter who interviewed me at KLTV is young; so, I’m not surprised by her actions. Her future career in journalism will be better served by not saying things like “Larry Centers ‘believes’ when she has no way of knowing what I believe. But again, she is trying to make a name for herself, and her “spin” on things didn’t surprise me.
What did surprise me was how the producer of that segment pieced together my words with camera shots and old footage clearly meant to incite controversy. This producer gave no thought to how what he or she did could damage some of the positive dialogue that’s going on right now. That’s why I feel compelled to set the record straight. And I’m going to start at the top, with Roger Goodell.
Roger – Over the past year, I’ve realized how much good I can do for the sport and for charities I hold dear by being more engaged with the League and former players. When it comes to player safety, at least you talk about it. We can always do more; but, you aren’t hiding the ball, or calling the ball a bat.
Before too long, I’ll take you up on that offer to come back and visit with you. I believe that if more former players come back to mentor current players and lead by example in giving back to their communities, you’ll have less discipline problems dumped on your doorstep. You’re trying to run a company; you’re not the assistant principal of the local high school.
As a former player, I believe (and yes I do actually believe this…I’m not being misquoted), that all NFL alumni owe it to the Commissioner of the League to “fade the heat” a little bit. The fact that he makes a lot of money to sit in the hot seat still doesn’t make everything that goes wrong his personal fault. And if we aren’t part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.