Tyrod Taylor knows "player safety'' isn't "highest priority" no matter what NFL says.

Ron Borges

“Player safety’’ became the mantra of the suits who run the National Football League right around the time their decades-long hypocrisy on the concussion epidemic and the toll it was taking on present and former players was publicly exposed.

But hypocrisy is a hard thing to shake when it is so much a part of your corporate DNA.

This was on display again last weekend when a pre-game pain killer shot collapsed the lung of Los Angeles Chargers’ quarterback Tyrod Taylor minutes before he was to play against the Kansas City Chiefs with cracked ribs.

Several days later Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn announced that a team doctor “just made a mistake” and that “Tyrod’s not angry, not upset. It happens.’’

It does?

Not if you believe in “player safety,’’ which it is obvious the NFL does not.

While it is rare that a player suffers a punctured lung from what has become a common pain-killer injection into Taylor’s cracked ribs, there is a risk. And the risk is that the doctor makes the injection without seeing exactly where the needle is going, which can be a problem. 

That doesn’t sound like “a mistake’’ to me. It sounds like risking a player's safety.

The fact of the matter is that for decades NFL players have played in games doped up on pain killers that mask the extent of their injuries by hiding the pain…for a while. Often they get a second shot at halftime -- if necessary -- to keep them going…for a while.

Is this good medicine? Is this humane? Hardly. The truth is that every weekend there are NFL players allowed to play pro football who would not be allowed in the Kentucky Derby if they were a thoroughbred running on the same dope.

Yet the people in charge keep insisting player safety is paramount in the league’s thinking. Just a few years ago, in fact, commissioner Roger Goodell said there was “no higher priority’’ in the NFL than player safety.

If that’s the case, then why were the Chargers shooting up their quarterback last Sunday so he could play with cracked ribs and puncturing his lung in the process? If that’s making player safety a “priority’’ what would it look like if the league wasn’t?

Making something a “priority’’ is a relative term in the NFL because the mere act of playing this violent game while injured, which happens every Sunday on every team, flies in the face of safety. If one has to be shot with Toradol -- as an estimated third of NFL players are each weekend -- just to play, then player safety is not a priority. It’s non-existent.

If the NFL really cared about player safety then one thing would be clear: If you need narcotics or a drug like Toradol, which in England is normally prescribed only in an emergency room for massive short-term pain management, then you shouldn’t be playing football.

Anthony Lynn may believe Tyrod Taylor is “not angry, not upset’’ about what happened to him in the trainer’s room before last Sunday’s game, but maybe he should ask his family how it feels about it.

A “mistake,’’ as Lynn put it this week, certainly was made during the administration of a pain-killer shot designed to mask the debilitating effects of Taylor’s cracked ribs. But it was not simply that of a poorly administered needle collapsing Taylor’s lung.

The real mistake is the whole idea that playing football, even at the billion-dollar NFL level, is a place where you can claim player safety as “our highest priority’’ when every Sunday you send doped-up players onto the field with injuries that in another workplace would put them out on sick leave.

There’s something sick about that, as Tyrod Taylor found out when the Chargers’ efforts to put him on the field last Sunday put him in a hospital, struggling to breath. In that case for sure, the player’s safety was not much a priority at all.

And it won’t be for hundreds of other players this Sunday, either.


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