The NFL is sending mixed messages for player safety

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Ben down after taking a hit to the knees from Seattle's Raheem Brock courtesy nfl.com

Injuries, and fake injuries for that matter, seem to be the hot topic of the week.  The NFL analysts continue to gush about Tony Romo’s “courageous” performance playing with a punctured lung and cracked ribs, teams are being threatened with fines and suspensions for “faking” injuries to slow down tempos of the game, and everyone is on pins and needles to see if Michael Vick will play after suffering a concussion in last week’s game.  On top of all that, the Steelers are facing the Manningless Colts this Sunday, where the injury to their franchise star has left them looking like a shell of their former selves after 2 games.  Ben shook off what looked to have been a devastating blow to the knees against Seattle, and was back in the game within a few plays. As the NFL continues with the façade that they are concerned with player safety, I’m wondering why I’m seeing all the mixed messages when it comes to player injuries.

In Ben’s now seventh season, we’ve witnessed him coming back from a motorcycle accident, appendicitis, hyper-extended knees, cracked ribs, broken feet, a broken nose, and all other kinds of sprained extremities.  He was actually once criticized for being “too soft” or being a “drama queen” when it came to injuries but those monikers don’t seem to apply anymore.  Ben claimed after Super Bowl XLIII that he played the game with 2 fractured ribs, but that was back when no one took his injuries seriously. I suppose if that happened now, he would be called “courageous” just like Romo has for playing against the 49ers with a couple of cracked ribs.

Ben takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'

It’s a difficult subject though.  While as fans we would like to see our star players battling it out by any means necessary, these guys could be doing some serious damage to themselves all in the name of a football game.  Does anyone think that Romo would have still played through that pain if he hadn’t gotten hammered the week before for blowing the game against the Jets?  Would Ben be considered the tough guy he is today if he went out of the game for every bump and bruise?  Take Jay Cutler, for example.  He stayed out of last year’s NFC Championship game with a torn MCL and caught hell the entire offseason for not playing through the pain.  There’s got to be some middle ground between the high praise that Romo is getting this week and the dogging Cutler got last year.

Another far extreme is Peyton Manning and the Colts.  Manning, who is out with a neck injury after several surgeries, is reportedly traveling to Europe to look into stem cell treatments not available in the U.S. to aid in the speed of his recovery.  I’m sure part of that has to do with his iron-man mentality and his competitive drive is killing him that he’s not playing right now.  But I’m sure it also has something to do with the fact that the Colts have gone from one of the best teams in the league to one of the worst without Manning under center.  It’s still unclear as to whether or not it will actually be safe for Manning to ever play again with the neck issues he is facing.

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