“Players really need to be on the front lines of education on this,” Linta says.
Certainly most beneficial would be getting players to police themselves _ and one another. There are signs it’s happening.
“We are seeing a switch in the way players are handling concussions and suspected concussions,” says Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons and co-chairman of the NFL’s competition committee, which recommends all rules changes. “A player goes down and we are seeing when he has trouble getting up or there’s a problem, other players are pointing to the sideline and telling the coaches to take him out of the game. It’s player accountability for each other, and it’s a very important part of making that (culture) change.”
Still, it’s a violent game at the highest level, played by physical specimens who work themselves into a fervor. Their careers are short, their pain thresholds are high, their dedication to each other often immeasurable.
“The doctors, the medical staff,” says Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who sustained a concussion earlier this month, “are there to protect you against yourself a lot of times.”
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton and Sports Writers Dave Skretta, Tim Booth, John Wawrow, Noah Trister, Joseph White and Will Graves contributed to this story.