SNYDER: RG3, Junior Seau evidence of NFL’s negligent culture

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Football is a violent and dangerous game. I get that. But there has been too much misdirection in the aftermath of Robert Griffin III going down against Seattle.

It’s not hindsight if you questioned the wisdom of continuing to play Griffin after his injured right knee buckled in the first quarter.

It’s not second-guessing if you thought calling his number on running plays foolishly put additional strain on the knee.

And it’s not looking in the rear-view mirror if you believed injury-induced ineffectiveness — not just the risk of further damage — should have led to his benching before the fateful fourth quarter.

Everyone acknowledges the perils of padded human beings slamming into one another repeatedly for 60 minutes. You don’t need abundant foresight to know that bones, brains, limbs and ligaments are put in harm’s way.

** FILE ** In this Sept. 15, 2002, file photo, San Diego Chargers' Junior Seau does a celebration dance after one of his seven tackles in the Chargers' 24-3 win over the Houston Texans in an NFL football game in San Diego. Seau, the one-time fierce linebacker of his hometown Chargers, shot himself in the chest on May 2, 2012, leaving no note and so many in football shaken. He was 43. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

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** FILE ** In this Sept. 15, 2002, file photo, San Diego ... more >

The evidence speaks for itself every week as NFL teams report on their wounded.

But the inevitability of injuries doesn’t absolve the league, coaches or players when they disregard preventive measures. While it’s unclear how much pain can be avoided, that’s no excuse for acting as if we’ve learned nothing over the years.

Back in the Dark Age — about three years ago — the NFL refused to acknowledge the sport’s connection to head injuries and brain disease. Testifying before Congress in October 2009, commissioner Roger Goodell also defended the league’s policy on concussions. The scene was reminiscent of tobacco companies denying a link between smoking and lung cancer decades earlier.

The NFL has come a long way since then, spurred by the bevy of lawsuits. But evidence of its negligent past continues to surface. The National Institutes of Health said Thursday that Junior Seau suffered from the same degenerative brain disease — chronic traumatic encephalopathy — found in dozens of other players, some of whom committed suicide like Seau.

“The finding underscores the recognized need for additional research to accelerate a fuller understanding of CTE,” the league said Thursday in a statement. “We have work to do, and we’re doing it.”

Better late than never, although more research and more studies don’t address immediate needs.

The NFL has taken steps in that area by revising tackling standards and protocol for in-game head injuries. That’s great.

But making changes on paper is much easier than making changes within the culture.

The current mindset still is closer to the old psyche, when getting your bell rung and playing through injury were badges of honor while management looked the other way.

Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher contends he would lie about a concussion in order to keep playing.

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About the Author

Deron Snyder

Deron Snyder is an award-winning journalist and Washington Times sports columnist with more than 25 years of experience. He has worked at USA Today and his column was syndicated in Gannett’s 80-plus newspapers from 2000-2009, appearing in The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star, The Detroit News and many others. Follow Deron on Twitter @DeronSnyder or email him at

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