<
>

NFLN survey/player safety: Vikings

The vast majority of players who took ESPN's NFL Nation Confidential survey said they'd play in the Super Bowl with a concussion -- 85 percent of them, to be exact -- and the response in the Vikings' locker room was unanimous. All 10 Vikings players surveyed said if given the opportunity, they'd play in the Super Bowl with a concussion, and it was striking to hear just how quickly all of them answered the question in the affirmative.

It's tricky, then, to know exactly what to do with the league's player safety issues when so many players admit they'd sacrifice their own well-being to play in the biggest game of their careers, and it makes a solution to the NFL's concussion crisis even harder to find. How is the league supposed to effectively legislate player safety when so many players admit they'd effectively act in spite of their own long-term health interests, and can players put a premium on safety when not being on the field can often be a quick path to the waiver wire?

That's a complicated issue, and it was reflected in the answers we got to the other NFL Nation Confidential topic we're covering today: whether the NFL is committed to player safety. Sixty percent of the players surveyed said they believed the league is truly committed to player safety, and the response in the Vikings' locker room mirrored that exactly; six players said the league is committed to player safety, while four said it isn't.

Two of the responses struck me as the most interesting. One of those players said he believes the league is more committed to the appearance of player safety than it is to the actual issue, while another said he knows the issue is tricky because it's in the best interest of both the league and its players to put the best product on the field. The concussion issue is real, and it behooves both sides to give serious attention to it, but as one Vikings player said, the game is dangerous and probably can't be made safe. Players know what they're signing up for when they get into the league, and they're willingly risking their own bodies to do what they love at a handsome rate of compensation.

That's what makes the player safety issue so complicated, and that's why I particularly enjoyed talking to players about this part of our survey; their answers were honest and thought-provoking, and they framed an issue that's much more complex than it's sometimes portrayed to be.