BOCA RATON, Florida: Comments made to reporters by New York Giants owner John Mara at the NFL meetings on Sunday further point toward the proactive approach his peers will continue to take on the issue of head injuries.
Coming on the heels of the league admitting concussions from playing football dramatically increases the odds of suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) later in life, Mara didn’t duck the subject in a brief conversation with reporters, calling concussions the “No. 1 issue we have right now.”
Mara pointed to the spike in concussions reported in 2015 compared to the year before as troublesome.
“This [past]year was a setback,” he said. “Hopefully it’s a one-year aberration.”
Either way, he concluded, the owners must continue to attack all ways to reduce head injuries.
“We have to do more,” Mara said. “It’s a long process, and we need to understand more about it. Particularly how to prevent it. There’s going to be a lot of research done on helmets going forward. Can we make the helmets safer?
“We understand more than we did years ago, but we’re still not even close to having the knowledge that we need to have going forward. That’s why we’re spending millions of dollars on research, trying to understand more about this issue. That’s why we have the leading experts, we think, in the country on our health and safety committee.”
Head injuries likely will continue to dominate the NFL landscape until the league gets a clearer picture of what its players can and can’t sustain and what exactly constitutes danger.
But it is far from the only difficult matter the owners will need to embrace here at the Boca Raton Resort this week.
Up in Atlanta, for example, the city, team and Falcons owner Arthur Blank stand to lose untold millions or perhaps billions if a bill is signed into law that ostensibly allows discrimination based on sexual orientation, among other things.
Passed by the state senate on Wednesday, House Bill 757 would give pastors in the state the right to refuse performing same-sex weddings and give religious groups the option of refusing services to anyone they find objectionable.
The bill is now on the desk of Governor Nathan Deal, who could make it law by signing it or reject it with a veto.
Hiring processes also would be affected, as faith-based organizations also would have the right not to hire applicants based on religious beliefs or practices and to terminate existing employees they find not be in accord with their policies.
Called the anti-gay law, it likely would make Atlanta off-limits for any Super Bowls as long as it’s in effect because of the league’s policy of tolerance.
“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” the NFL said in a statement released to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”
That’s a potential quagmire for an owner who’s in the process of building a $1.4 billion stadium that’s due to open next year.
Blank obviously doesn’t want to see this law passed, and his peers no doubt feel the same way.
On deck for today is a press conference with the league’s competition committee, following its meeting in the morning.
The real action here doesn’t heat up until Tuesday, however, when all the AFC coaches converge at a breakfast for an hour of media availability. The NFC coaches will do the same on Wednesday morning.
The meetings conclude with commissioner Roger Goodell holding a press conference at around noon on Wednesday.