Jets rookie safety Jamal Adams caused quite the stir as he claimed the football field was the “perfect place to die” in response to a question about a recent study on the effects of football on the human brain.
"If I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field" — Jamal Adams of the Jets pic.twitter.com/yEpIkJZoWj
— SNY (@SNYtv) July 31, 2017
Speaking at a fan event on Monday, while sitting next to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Adams responded to questions about player safety,
“I’m all about making the game safer, but as a defensive player, I’m not a big fan of it. But I get it. I can speak for a lot of guys that play the game. We live and breathe [football]. This is what we’re so passionate about. Literally, if I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field. And that’s not a lie. There’s so much sacrifice that we go through as a team, and just connecting as one and winning ballgames. There’s nothing like playing the game of football. But again, I’m all about making the game safer.”
Adams’ response was greeted with applause by the roughly 150 people in attendance.
Adams said this sitting right next to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
— Andy Vasquez (@andy_vasquez) July 31, 2017
The 21-year-old rookie was the sixth overall pick out of LSU in this year’s draft.
Player safety in football has come to the forefront of late with the Jama Network releasing a study last week, revealing that 110 out of 111 brains of deceased former NFL players showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) a degenerative disease caused by constant impact to the head.
The scientists summarized their findings,
“In a convenience sample of 202 deceased players of American football from a brain donation program, CTE was neuropathologically diagnosed in 177 players across all levels of play (87%), including 110 of 111 former National Football League players (99%).”
While the sample of the brains in the the JAMA Network study is slightly biased, as the brains were submitted by concerned family members, the results are still deeply disquieting.
As the New York Times noted, even if not a single other deceased former NFL player had CTE, the study would still reveal that 9% of NFL players did suffer from the degenerative condition, which is “vastly higher than in the general population.”
Players across the league have responded to the study in a variety of ways.
Obviously you have the rookie Adams claiming he would die on the football field.
Others have offered more nuanced responses.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is usually not associated with nuance, spoke about continuing to play as more information and data comes out about the risks of playing football. Roethlisberger told reporters,
“Just all those things combined—being healthy, being able to play catch with my kids. I feel good mentally, I know this new study that came out that 90 percent [of NFL] players’ brains who were studied had CTE. There’s a lot of scary things, and I think my wife would be OK if I hung it up, too. But I still love the guys, I still love the game, so it was right for me to come back and give it everything I have this year.”
Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, one of the more interesting and outspoken players in the NFL, gave his response to Adams’ comments and player safety in general in a pair of tweets on Monday, saying “I ain’t dying for this shit.”
Keana McMahon, the wife of former NFL lineman Justin Strzelczyk, also offered a slightly ominous reply to Adams,
“I don’t even know what to say. This guy [Adams] doesn’t know what’s coming down the pipeline. He has no idea what dealing with someone who has CTE is like.”
Strzelczyk, who suffered from complications due to CTE, was killed when his car collided with a tanker truck after leading police on a long chase in Central New York.
As for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who makes a reported $34 million yearly salary from the sport, he saw Adams’ comments as passion about the game of FOOTBAW,
“I think what he was really making the point of is how much he loves the game. It’s just something that means a great deal to him. I get the emotion of that.”
The amount of money the sport generates for the owners and sponsors will surely keep the NFL chugging along as players’ health is sacrificed along the way.
But as more and more information comes out about what football does to the human brain, it seems like something has to give.
Players like John Urschel, who retired last week at 26 to pursue a PhD in math from MIT, are turning their backs on the game during their prime and trying their hands something else, but obviously not every NFL player has the option of getting a PhD at MIT.
Roger Goodell will hope that there is no shortage of 21-year-olds willing to die on the football field.