- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The horrific spinal cord injury sustained by Bills tight end Kevin Everett on the first weekend of the NFL season is every player’s worst nightmare.

Everett lowered his head to make a tackle, and in an instant, his life was changed forever.

This is the awful reality of a game that leaves so many of its practitioners in various debilitating forms once they are finished with their careers.

Or should we say once football is done exacting its physical toll from those previously robust and strong?

That toll is all too omnipresent after Week 1 of the NFL.

Redskins right tackle Jon Jansen is expected to miss the rest of the season after dislocating his right ankle in gruesome fashion against the Dolphins.

More and more, replays should come with an eye-averting warning to those squeamish viewers unable to handle the sight of body parts being left at grotesque angles.

Injuries are part of football; always have been.

What has changed in the last several generations is the speed, size and strength of the men.

Their high-impact collisions are incredibly violent, the force enough to make spectators and viewers wince.

Speaking of which, the 1960 CBS documentary titled “The Violent World of Sam Huff” seems almost quaint by the high-velocity standards of the NFL today.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Huff, a five-time Pro Bowl selection as a linebacker, just might qualify as a safety today.

Look around the league. The losses are pronounced.

The Bears, one of the favorites in the NFC, lost both free safety Mike Brown and nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek to season-ending injuries, in both cases because of a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament in the left knee.

Brown’s injury was perhaps felt the hardest because of all the setbacks he has endured the last four seasons. It was the third time in four seasons that his place on the field was cut short because of an injury.

Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace, a seven-time Pro Bowl, will miss the rest of the season after tearing a labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder. It was deemed a potentially career-ending injury by coach Scott Linehan.

Players are required to live with the truism that the next play could be their last.

That could be a long-term blessing in some instances, considering the pounding the more durable players endure over the course of lengthy careers.

Bob Costas recently profiled the plight of ex-running back Earl Campbell on HBO.

Campbell was a human wrecking ball in his heyday with the Houston Oilers, taking on each and every would-be tackler with a punishing style that left many eating sod.

Campbell, 52, is a victim of that straight-ahead running manner today, unable to play catch with a football on the playing fields he once dominated.

Yet he has no regrets, no bitterness about the game that allowed him to buy a house for his mother soon after he became a professional.

That is a testament to Campbell’s class, for watching him struggle to walk a couple of steps or complete his rehabilitation exercises during the profile was disquieting.

Is the game, or any game, worth that result?

The players, in making a pact with the game, undoubtedly hope the worst of the physical damage will happen to the other guy instead of to them. That is a longshot bet.

From the 2000 to 2003 seasons, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review found that NFL players sustained 6,558 injuries, with the rate of injury spiking in the 2003 season, when 68 percent of the players succumbed to injury.

That was nearly eight times higher than the other major sports entities.

And that is not likely to change, no matter how many rules the NFL implements to make the game safer.

There is nothing safe about a 260-pound athlete barreling down the field at a high rate of speed, only to be blindsided by another 260-pound athlete traveling at nearly the same rate of speed.

It is a brutal a game that mocks the preservation of the body, as this past weekend reminded us anew.

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