NFL Players Comment on Teams' Commitment to Player Health in AP Survey

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2016

A general view of an NFL logo on the 50-yard line prior to an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens Monday, Nov. 30, 2015, in Cleveland. Baltimore won 33-27. (AP Photo/David Richard)
David Richard/Associated Press

An Associated Press survey of 100 NFL athletes revealed just 47 players in the sample believe teams, coaches and team doctors "have the athletes’ best interests at heart when it comes to health and safety."

Thirty-nine respondents said they were of the belief that teams don't prioritize their safety, while 14 players were unsure or opted not to respond.   

The survey also revealed 39 of the 100 players were more concerned about concussions and their lasting effects compared to other football-related medical issues. However, a plurality of respondents (41 in total) noted they're equally concerned about suffering head injuries as they are other ailments. 

The AP also relayed the findings of players' general concern with being injured in any way, shape or form: 

NFL Players' Level of Concern Regarding Risk of Injury
Not At All17%
Source: Associated Press

Washington Redskins cornerback Will Blackmon was among those who referenced the high degree of risk involved with suiting up on Sundays: 

On the topic of team doctors and trainers rushing players back when they're not 100 percent, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Denard Robinson and Detroit Lions safety Don Carey offered two distinct viewpoints.

"Some of the guys I hear stories from, they don’t trust the team opinions. (Teams are) pushing guys and telling them to 'Go!'" Robinson said, per the AP. "That’s crazy. That’s crazy to hear that."

However, Carey noted there are two sides to the coin since team doctors and trainers are instructed to try to produce rapid recoveries when it comes to injuries. 

"It’s their job to make you playable," Carey said, according to the AP. "There’s a lot of pressure on them to keep guys on the field."

There also appeared to be an experiential gap that divided players into optimistic and pessimistic camps regarding their outlooks on how teams prioritize safety. According to the AP, 35 percent of players who have been in the league at least four seasons responded by saying "their interests are being protected."

Conversely, 71 percent of players with anywhere from one to three years of experience shared that same sentiment. 

Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, who serves as co-chairman of the NFL’s player safety advisory panel, told the AP such pessimistic beliefs shouldn't permeate the players' collective mindset: 

We shouldn’t have situations where players are feeling (that way). We should have players sitting there, saying, 'Yes, they’re trying to give us the best that they can possibly give us.' The game keeps evolving. It keeps getting better. Yes, there are flaws. Yes, there are things we wish we could (do to) make the game better. I guess we could try to find ways to make it even safer.

The AP's findings come on the heels of an NFL report, via, that noted concussions increased by 32 percent between the 2014 and 2015 seasons. All told, the NFL reported 271 concussions in 2015—up from a total of 206 the year prior. 

Following the release of those figures and the AP's detailed report emphasizing veteran players' concerns with safety protocols, the NFL could be pressed to examine potential improvements as it relates to communication between training staffs and athletes. 

And after Lott alluded to taking extra steps to make players feel safe, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the league invest more resources in an area it has shown an increasingly strong commitment to over the past few seasons.