Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley has spent his entire adult life in the football industry. He played college ball at the University of Pittsburgh before working for the Pittsburgh Steelers for a decade, eventually climbing the ladder to run operations for an entire franchise.
As someone who built his life around the sport, Whaley's comments about the violence of football to WGR 550 radio Tuesday are bound to make headlines.
"This is the game of football," Whaley said, per Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. "Injuries are part of it. It's a violent game that I personally don't think humans are supposed to play."
The comments came amid a discussion about wide receiver Sammy Watkins' struggles with injuries. Watkins, a 2014 first-round pick, has played in 29 of 32 regular-season games but has been hampered with near-constant playable ailments.
"I wouldn't say [he's injury-prone]," Whaley said. "If you look at his game log, he's only missed three games. So is he injury-prone? I wouldn't say that. Are things going to come up with a guy like this? We hope that gets limited in the future."
Watkins, 22, had surgery earlier this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot. The team expects him to be available for the beginning of the regular season. If he's forced to miss time in camp, it would be the second straight year Watkins has been on the sidelines for valuable reps. Recovery from hip surgery cost him time during training camp and preseason last year.
The current expectation is for Watkins to miss all of training camp and the preseason, per ESPN.com's Adam Schefter (h/t Rodak). The Bills have not confirmed that diagnosis.
Whaley's more general comments come as the NFL is under fire for its handling of head injury research.
Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN's Outside the Lines obtained a 91-page congressional report that said the NFL tried to improperly influence a National Institute of Health study on football and brain injuries. The league, which promised to foot the $16 million bill for the research, then pulled its funding. Taxpayers have been forced to instead cover the costs.
“We are reviewing the report but categorically reject any suggestion of improper influence,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio.
While these two events are only tangentially related, it's not likely to please NFL offices that a prominent league executive categorized the sport as something unfit for humans. This will only give more ammo to those looking to put more restrictions on the game going forward.
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