The NFL can’t just go back to business as usual after Damar Hamlin episode

It starts with how players are seen, treated and respected. If the NFL and its club stewards have a heart, they’ll show a greater appreciation for the risks players take and their humanity after seeing Hamlin stop on the field.

I’ve heard owners talk about the ‘risk’ they take on in escrowing stadium financing and guaranteed contracts. It’s not a real risk in the NFL, and we all know it.

Nor do we want to hear league suits or greedy owners (look at Jerry Jones) in favor of extending the regular season to 18 games. The NFL can’t be both sides of the coin when it comes to player safety. Risk is directly proportional to exposure. Exposing a player to more games puts the player at more risk of injury.

That doesn’t put the blame for Hamlin’s horrific injury on the feet of an extended 17-game regular season, but the math matters. , more likely to be catastrophic.

As commanders start Sam Howell on Sunday, He will be the 65th starting quarterback this season., the most in NFL history in a non-strike season. Not all of these changes are due to injury.

But NFL players feel pushed to their limits. The league said it had seen no “substantial” change in its injury rate after entering its first 17-game season in 2021. Still, if the NFL wants to extend the regular season, add a second bye, 272 games he spreads out over 19 weeks.

Give players a rest — literally.

With Hamlin avoiding death on the NFL field, it’s also time to reassess our complacent attitude to risk in the NFL context. Yes, players sign up to take some health risks to play professional football, but that doesn’t justify a blank check to write off the brutality of the sport. Quality cannot be viewed as collateral damage.

This is the age of player agency and empowerment. A breakthrough moment occurred following Hamlin’s sobering situation. Bills and Bengals players demanded to be seen as more than an entertainment commodity. They decided that the show should not continue with Hamlin fighting for his life.

There is no way to put the proverbial toothpaste back into the tube. I don’t think the NFL should try.

It’s time to pay more than lip service and politeness for the serious risks NFL players take every week.

What about owners who don’t hold the green line when it comes to guaranteed contracts? What about a culture that doesn’t treat players like disposable razors? How about not just giving back?

It’s a much bigger and more lasting tribute to Hamlin than painting his 3rd at the 30-yard line and having an NFL player wear a ‘Love Dummer’ T-shirt to warm up before a game. I guess.

To the league’s credit, we work hard to make the game safer and fund safety innovation and improvements.

The league and the NFL Players Association announced in March that helmet testing revealed that the highest-rated helmets were nine times more effective than before testing began in 2015.

In December, the league announced the NFL Contact Detection Challenge. This is a competition that seeks to find new and more accurate methods for measuring and analyzing the timing, duration and frequency of in-game contact.

Jennifer Langton, NFL senior vice president of health and safety innovations, said:

The league’s competition committee has consistently worked to reduce the frequency of high injury play or eliminate it entirely. The league takes this seriously because it knows player safety is an existential threat.

But what you can do is limited. Especially when your primary means of protection is the most dangerous weapon on the field: a helmet. It is not yet known why Hamlin was at the scene where he needed CPR and defibrillation. However, he received a helmet to his chest from Cincinnati receiver Tee Higgins.

NFL football is a human car crash sport involving car accident injuries.

Patriots manager Bill Belichick said Thursday, “Football is a very good competitive game… but life is bigger than this game.” As a coach I want to say that it is different and I have said this to my players many times: I am with them and what they are doing and how they are doing it. The amount of respect I have for what I do is immeasurable.

“Of course, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our players. The players know it, but it’s not.”

Hamlin’s story seems to have the happy ending that people wanted.

Hopefully his quality of life is as good as it was when he changed at Peycoe Stadium. But you can’t change the NFL.

Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. You can contact him at follow him on twitter @cgasper.

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