Troy Aikman fears over-regulating safety in NFL
Troy Aikman rarely discusses concussions publicly. It's bad enough that he suffered a bunch of them as a player and thus spent significant chunks of the '90s speaking about them.
But in a telephone conversation Thursday the Fox analyst spoke at length about what has become a hot topic in the NFL, expressing concern that the noble pursuit of player safety could change the nature of the sport.
"To me the game is safer today than it's ever been, and yet there is more attention paid to it," he said. "I'm not opposed to that. I'm certainly in favor if there is a way to eliminate head injuries.
"But having said that, it's football, and at some point if you're no longer going to risk any kind of head injury and continually make these rules to make things safer, then it's no longer football.
"There is talk about not wearing helmets in practice. How can you go out and play in a football game if you are not doing the things necessary to prepare? To me you're risking more injury doing that."
Aikman noted the contradiction in talk of expanding the regular season to 17 or 18 games and at the same time trying to address player safety and minimize head injuries.
"To me those two things don't go hand in hand," he said.
Aikman said if he had a young son (which he does not) he would hesitate to let him play football given all of the information about its long-term dangers. But as long as people are going to play the game, he fears altering it beyond recognition.
"I'm all for player safety; I don't want to see anyone get hurt," he said. "But it is football. It's the game that it is. If you're going to be a fireman, there's an element of risk involved that you may suffer some burns. If you're going to be a football player, there are some risks involved in that."
What did Aikman think of Hines Ward calling out Ben Roethlisberger last weekend for sitting out a key game because of post-concussion symptoms?
"I don't think anyone can question Ben's toughness," he said.
"I think it was very unfair to Ben for anyone, whether it was someone in his own organization or the media, to suggest he should have played. You can't do that."