WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — It’s an intriguing question and one that has been asked before — what if the NFL did away with the modern helmets and reverted back to leather cranial coverings? Would that reduce the number of concussions? Would that put and end to the epidemic of brain trauma?
Sean Salisbury became the latest former player to raise the hypothetical question during an appearance on the LaVar Arrington Show with Chad Dukes on 106.7 The Fan Friday afternoon.
“I don’t want to ‘wussify’ sports or football,” Salisbury said while remaining adamant that changes on the most fundamental level of the game were necessary in order to protect the health of players.
Salisbury, who attended USC before going on to a ten-year pro football career, believes a softer helmet would make guys think twice about leading with their head.
“The guys delivering the blows might say, ‘Not this cat . . . I’m going to tackle properly,’ ” he speculated.
Rectifying the problem must begin with game’s youngest players who are heavily influenced by the modern highlight era we live in.
We’ve all been asked whether a tree makes a sound if it falls and nobody is around to hear it.
Today’s youngsters are facing a similar quandary — If a play doesn’t make SportsCenter’s Top 10, did it really happen?
Many kids would say no.
“We gotta get back to the point where that tackle in the open field, you wrap him up and then drive him with you shoulder into the ground … good clean, solid hits,” Salisbury told LaVar and Dukes. “We’ve gotten away from that because the big hits, the big touchdown passes, the big dunks get you paid. And in the 5th grade kids thinking about how am I going to be on TV and get paid as opposed to how am I going to be what’s best and keep myself healthy.”
As old as the debate about reverting back to leather helmets is, so too is its biggest supporting argument.
“I’m convinced we have more concussions now with more protection than we did with less protection and proper form tackling,” he said. “I’m convinced of it.”
In truth, the NFL has evolved past the point of ever going back to the vintage helmets. The popularity of the game won’t allow it.
And as more and more former players file suit against the league, including longtime Washington Redskins receiver Art Monk, the concussion debate will only intensify. The suicide of Junior Seau, with whom Salisbury was close, has also greatly factored into the recent scrutiny over the lasting impact of brain injuries among football players.
But the debate will rage on for years to come with no viable solution easily obtainable.
At least the Redskins have given their throwback uniforms a vintage helmet look.