The NFL has made it tougher with strict protocols to prevent concussed players from playing in games, or reentering games, in recent seasons.
But that doesn't mean player won't try to circumvent those rules to get into a game — especially when there are big stakes.
According to an ESPN NFL Nation anonymous poll of 320 players, 85 percent of them 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," Tennessee Titans safety Bernard Pollard said. "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.'"
Pollard played in last year's Super Bowl as a member of the Baltimore Ravens and suffered broken ribs, exacerbating an earlier injury in the season, on the first play of the game. He remained in the game.
And even with 60 percent of players polled in the same study saying they believe the league is taking the right precautions for player safety, the mentality might still be old school. Taking violence out of the sport, Pollard said, would prove to be very difficult while maintaining its popularity and the nature of the game.
"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."
That 60 percent number clearly is closer to the middle, and you can see the divide of opinion on the matter, even among defensive teammates.
Washington Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo believes the league has made strides in making the game as safe as it can be.
"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," Orakpo said. "I'm proud of the way they handle concussions. I'm proud of the way the NFL is going."
But the man who lined up a few feet to Orakpo's left the past several seasons, London Fletcher, is still suspicious. He's not convinced that the league's approach isn't more from a public-relations stand point and more dog and pony show than anything else.
"Some of it's more to protect themselves from lawsuits," he 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."
Even if that's true, player must help themselves and be transparent when medical officials are trying to do what's in their best interests. And with the poll saying that most would play through (or possibly hide) an injury, it's a two-way street with perhaps traffic going in the wrong direction in many cases.
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