Collier: NFL giving out advice, but is anyone really listening?

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This was supposed to be the weekend of the annual no-news oasis when it comes to football; why else would they play the Pro Bowl on this particular Sunday?

Nothing can match, certainly in NFL terms, the galloping meaningless of the Pro Bowl, so the league and its cabillions of followers have come to take advantage of the occasion to catch their collective breath before the traditional Super Bowl ramp up, when even the most trivial developments and vapid observations tend to get framed as though they were the thunderous prelude to intergalactic conflict.

But when the history of the NFL is again rewritten, the weekend that just expired will not only have a place, but a place perhaps among its final mileposts, because a couple of things happened that put a fresh coat of black ice on the slippery slope regarding player safety.

First, the contents of an interview President Barack Obama gave The New Republic for its Feb. 11 issue became available, in which Obama says that if he had a son, he would "think long and hard" about allowing him to play, and that changes relative to player safety might ultimately make the game "a bit less exciting," but much better for players.

Barely 24 hours earlier, I noted with some alarm that the league had begun issuing official safety "advice" in the wake of an incident at M, a Honolulu nightclub.

"Pro Bowl Players Advised to Avoid Honolulu Nightclub," was the headline on Kareem Copeland's story on NFL.com

This arose from a partial violation of Mike Tomlin's "Don't Hit The Head, Don't Use The Head," initiative on player safety, as someone in the nightclub who was not using his head apparently hit Washington Redskins tackle Trent Williams in the head with a champagne bottle. Williams required stitches and was probably not the only player among more than two-dozen present who wished the NFL had issued its advisory earlier in the week.

The fact is, it's an unsafe world for the NFL right now, from safety to liability to litigation to the hundreds of more specific pitfalls such as Honolulu after dark, and this advice initiative coupled with the impact of presidential observations could lead to even more ominous headlines in the coming weeks and months, such as:

"NFL advises Pro Bowl players to avoid Pro Bowl."

Once Houston Texans running back Arian Foster indicated last week that the playing field is probably the safest place in Hawaii, the league will have to do something that at least suggests otherwise.

"I think it's an honor and a tradition, but for you to expect the best athletes in the NFL to come out and play a game 100 percent when you can't game plan, you can't blitz, it's not going to be competitive like everybody wants it to be," is what Foster said, in case you missed it.

"NFL Advises Super Bowl Players to Avoid New Orleans Entirely."

If players can get into trouble in the relative monastery of Honolulu, how do you like their chances in the French Quarter?

"NFL Advises Commissioner Roger Goodell to Avoid New Orleans Altogether."

Goodell's popularity in the Crescent City couldn't be worse right now if he were pushing an ordinance that would move last call up to 2 a.m. His fines and suspensions for the New Orleans Saints in the wake of the bounty scandal gutted any chance at the home team playing this week. It should be awfully special when he walks to the middle of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to hand the Lombardi Trophy to one of Jack and Jackie Harbaugh's kids.

"NFL Advises Barack Obama That He Doesn't Have A Son Anyway."

Surely the NFL will be displeased that the Oval Office has weighed in on player safety, but Obama pulled his punch just a trifle when he said his greater concern was with college players, who often have nothing to fall back on when they are concussed from a game.

"NFL advises Tennessee Titans that they are free to hire Gregg Williams, but only to coach the Tennessee Titans Cheerleaders."

No one associated with the NFL's legal team could have been happy with multiple weekend reports that disgraced defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had not only interviewed but was on the verge of becoming an assistant head coach in the league less than a year after being banned indefinitely for his role in the same bounty scandal. Among the Saints' primary sinners, Williams drew the harshest league criticisms and sanctions for his part in that sordid caper, the one where certain of the Saints players and staff seemed as interested in hurting opponents as in winning games. Williams' sick "motivational" tools are not what a league with a line of litigants from Park Avenue to the Bayou and back need right now.

"NFL Advises the New York Jets Not To Draft The Kim Kardashian-Kanye West Baby For Use In Certain Wildcat Packages."

Some things shouldn't have to be spelled out, but we're talking about Rex Ryan here.

mobilehome - genecollier

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.


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