During the team's media luncheon last Tuesday, Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown was specifically asked about the long-term affects of concussions. The question was related to an arbitrator awarding Ben Utecht the remainder of his 2009 salary ($926,471), who said that the Bengals didn't properly test him to get back on the field.
"It's not only not proven, it's merely speculation that this is something that creates some form of dementia late in life," Brown said. "Our statistics—the ones I've seen anyway—don't show that. Yet there's a lot of talk.
"Whether the alarm that is up and about today is deserved is in my mind a good thing because it makes us play it safe, but I'm not convinced that anybody really knows what concussions bring, what they mean later in life, if anything."
Brown further explained their directive with Utecht in 2009.
"We didn't do anything but try to rehabilitate him, which we did for many months. We did it in accordance with the directive we had from our doctors and the experts that we turned to in this area," Brown said. "And we followed their advice and at a certain point in time, we're told he was ready to go back to play. We were told that not just by our doctors but by our concussion experts. So when you get to that point, you have the option of releasing the player.
His position, the quote people are using (which is chopped up from the original), was in response to a specific question, not a press conference to explain his position of uncertainty. And perhaps it's molded from his experiences with Utecht's injury, which only caused general confusion for him and an eventual grievance from Utecht. Obviously one can make a distinct connection that as an owner in the NFL, with lawsuits from former players hovering, it's wise to take a public position that avoids the overall impact from a point of view that's conclusive (if he goes into a detailed response about how it all impacts players, he'd probably head to court as a witness). Maybe there's truth to that. Maybe not. A man with a computer and keyboard such as myself, with Cheeto-stained white tee-shirts and crushed Mountain Dew cans, hardly has the power to reach inside Brown's mind for a background on his position.
But that's not the point either. The point is that Brown said more research needs to be done; arguing that nothing conclusive exists, save for a simplistic correlation that football can be harmful to one's mental health. Dr. Jeffery J. Bazarian, an associate professor at the Unversity of Rochester Medical Center, was a co-author for a recent study that found players may suffer long-term brain damage, even if they do not suffer a concussion. He said in a statement when the study was released.
"Although the awareness of sports-related concussions is much higher, we still know very little about the long-term consequences and what happens inside the brain."
This isn't to say that there's no connection. There is. You'd be a fool to fight against that argument and it would be a disservice to the issue. Saying that brain trauma is fully understood is also misleading, as many doctors release studies that basically conclude that there is a link because of this or that, but the long-term affects are still a mystery. Science is a process that takes questions, speculations, and theories and tries to prove them. Doctors and scientists are saying themselves that concussions and the long-term effects are not fully understood; though we're closer today then ever.
Make no mistake. Brown wants to make the game safer for all of his players. But you have to understand Brown, who is probably the least reactive person in the NFL today. Look at his tenure before Marvin Lewis. Consider that he was one of two owners that rejected the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement; the same agreement that every owner declined to extend, eventually leading to the lockout in 2011. He needs to be sold. He won't fill in the blanks for you.
Additionally, Mike Brown has never proved to be an expert, nor a figurative leader in battling concussions. Granted. He probably made a mistake answering a question about a charged topic from the media that has proven more of a liability to players, owners, and public figures. One could argue that the NFL is only reacting due to the lawsuits and speculative pressure from Congress. But Brown's not here to "further the debate"; he's an NFL owner.
That being said, he added that he'd like to see more "research done on concussions and dementia."
Don Banks with Sports Illustrated writes:
So when the Bengals’ 77-year-old owner decides to open up and shed some light on the issue, as he did last week in interviews with Cincinnati-area media, I pay attention. Especially when Brown sums up any potential link between football-produced head injuries and later-in-life brain damage as nothing more than "merely speculation," citing "our statistics"’ as substantiation of his claim.
Of all the people in the world researching and talking about one of the greater stories of our time, why would Banks rely on Mike Brown to further advance the issue? Why would anyone? Because it's sexy. His comment only highlights a personal history for temperance and restraint, but it's counter to the talking points that there's an obvious link so something must be done. Brown knows that.
In the end, he'd be wise to let the issue be argued elsewhere.
+ Anthony Collins on the Cincinnati Bengals defensive line.
"They're the best in the NFL," Collins told Kevin Goheen with Fox Sports Ohio.
Why are they so good?
"We all believe in each other, and we keep each other accountable," said Peko, who is in his eighth season. "They know I’m going to be in my A gap, that Geno is going to be his B gap, Dunlap and Mike are going to be in their C gaps. When you play like that and can really trust in one another, you can get a lot done."
+ If there's a coach that toughen up Cincinnati's safeties, it's Mark Carrier, writes Geoff Hobson.
Carrier broke in with the remnants of the '85 Da Bears, one of the league's most storied teams. He can't remember having more than three conversations with his Hall of Fame head coach, Mike Ditka. Hammer was the leading tackler on that '90 defense that had two Hall of Famers in Richard Dent and Mike Singletary, but what he remembers are the veterans one day tossing him into the snow in his jockstrap after yanking down his shorts in front of the media.