Every year I feel like I hear the same thing around this time of year. “This is such a bad year for injuries”.

I don’t really think it is particularly worse. Every year important players go down, and every year other important players don’t. Some teams get incredibly unlucky about it, like the Texans or Redskins this year, and sometimes teams stay relatively healthy, like the Eagles. Until this week, at least. There is always an all-IR team that could compete at a reasonable level in the league. We have had an influx of ACL injuries in the past decade it feels like, but that could be any number of things. It could be athletes are bigger and stronger than ever, which puts strain on ligaments that previous eras didn’t. It could be everyone aiming low to avoid head contact. It could be the turf causing knees to not bend like they would against grass. Maybe it’s Thursday night football. It could be all of these things. It could just be confirmation bias.

But I don’t think we have particularly more injuries. I think the issue is that we are becoming more aware as a fandom of what those injuries can do. What these injuries really are. What it means for players in the long run. I personally find very little pleasure in big hits these days, now I mostly wince. My first reaction when I watched the game sealing INT by the Falcons this past Thursday was to wince. Well, it was actually “HOLY SHIT HE PICKED IT!” and then I watched the replay of Jones’s INT. He grabs it and falls like 3+ complete feet straight onto his back. Watch the slow-mo replay. It’s amazing, but my god, even if he was okay that like, had to really hurt.

If I fall over thanks to being a klutz it hurts. These players fall over pretty much every play. If you have the ball you are gonna go down 99% of the time. Now, with the growing knowledge of what this is doing to players, it doesn’t feel as fun. Watching a sick tackle now is like Russian roulette. Pretty much every tackle doesn’t feel badass and cool, it feels harsh until you see everyone get up okay. So injuries probably aren’t really rising, but our awareness of how they affect the lives of these players down the line is. You used to watch Jack Tatum level a man into another dimension. Now you watch Kam Chancellor probably cause brain damage to himself and his victim.

The violence needs to ease up if football will survive. I don’t think it’s vital to the game. I tune in for fun storylines, sick catches, sweet jukes, and cool passes. I would happily watch a less violent but still athletically beautiful football. A lot of people, including players, will talk about how they knew what they signed up for. They don’t. Nobody really knows CTE. Nobody really fundamentally comprehends dementia.  It’s something you can’t really identify with or understand when you are a dumb kid trying to get paid. It’s not like your knee hurting. It’s not something a few surgeries can help. I’ve been around a few people who ended up with their brains mostly gone by the end, and it is horrifying. It is bleak to the point of an existential crisis to watch someone no longer remember who they are and wondering what that must feel like. It is a fate that nobody in the world wants. No one signs up for that. They ignore it because they don’t really want to think long term like that, and playing football isn’t a guarantee you end up like Mike Webster or Junior Seau. But man it doesn’t hurt your chances.

Sorry about all this sadness and depression, that Steelers/Bengals game last week and then the Tom Savage hit this week really bummed me out. There’s a part of me that kind of hates football and is drifting from it because of this stuff. There’s a guilty feeling somewhere in me knowing I enjoy watching this silly game as it quietly ruins people. Football is still great but it needs to change so it can stay that way.