Cleveland Browns: How Ohioans will respond to the NFL’s latest injury scandal

It’s not enough for players in the Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons to fire their current training staffs and head coaches. They need the entire leadership team in place to issue a joint…

Cleveland Browns: How Ohioans will respond to the NFL's latest injury scandal

It’s not enough for players in the Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons to fire their current training staffs and head coaches. They need the entire leadership team in place to issue a joint statement and make promises of overhauling the team’s culture, accountability and player health and safety. If that does not happen, they will become a part of the NFL’s punishment for any knowledge they may have regarding players’ health and safety issues.

As it stands, both teams now know they have the league’s full support to fire or suspend former members of the coaching staff and medical staffs who knew about the previously reported medical issues and failed to do something about it, which included the team’s medical director Richard Sacra, who left the team earlier this year to take another coaching position. For how long they wanted to go and why they couldn’t get the medical director to sign on with another team — maybe they were just waiting for the perfect team to pick up former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, who was on the Rams’ practice squad when he missed extensive time with a concussion in 2017. He would go on to plead guilty to domestic violence and hit the 49ers’ opening training camp practice.

Rams fans deserved better when it came to the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu and the Bengals’ Leon Hall, who were released under ill-timed circumstances, yet both remaining in the league. As a Rams fan, I did not want to support a team with the reputation of being dirty and dirty players when the head of training and coaching was suggesting safety issues and false safety concerns could cause players to bring the Rams into a weak division. They should start replacing coaches and medical personnel with head coaches who truly care and who are willing to protect players’ health, safety and fair treatment. I do not believe the NFL will lift suspensions on Rams or Falcons players if they were aware their trainers or coaches knew about the Jones incident prior to him facing charges. Why? They will get paid. If they are suspended they are suspended.

The NFL needs to stop belittling its partners and would-be partners in this regard by saying that the private concerns of two players or two locker rooms are outside the bounds of their enterprise. Players, the NFL and the clubs that have contracts with the league are not the private property of the players. Though the players sometimes are relatively powerless in this matter, they can speak with people within the power structure and the owners and decide to stop playing for their clubs. If they decide to stand, they may not earn those millions of dollars each year, but they are much more affected by professional football than anyone else.

It is our belief that there is more to the Jones incident than a one-time mistake and that the NFL simply does not want to deal with that. If nothing changes, we fear that soon more former players will suffer similar injuries and die young, yet again. It will be us speaking. I did write the NFL’s Elliot Harrison in 2016 after Troy Polamalu got a $1 million termination buyout to make a case that the Steelers’ lack of clarity on the intended treatment of players presented us with a systemic problem. That was and is the case. So is Troy’s arrest. We won. But this year the NFL is back, telling the media and teams like the Rams and Falcons they can wait for their big fix and that the average player still loves playing. The story they tell the media has nothing to do with their workplace; it’s about how players are portrayed as heroes instead of being seen as tragic mistakes or errors of judgment. That’s not normal sports medicine. That’s not acceptable. We call them dead-enders and we call them robber barons. For some reason, that also fits them. This is our NFL. This is our league. If there is no change and everything stays the same, there will be longer football careers for us. We need the NFL to speak for us. They are our partners. We are not first in line to get paid but we are first in line to have our voices heard.

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