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Imagine no National Football League.

Preposterous, right?

Not that long ago, I felt the same way. Now I'm really starting to wonder if there is merit to the notion that the game, inherently violent in nature, is slowly but surely killing itself.

With the spate of injuries, players being carted off strapped on to backboards seemingly every week, football fields are looking more like mine fields. The shot of Tom Savage twitching on the ground in the end zone was disturbing. Just Thursday, the Colts' Brandon Williams was carted off after a seemingly innocuous play.

Where does it stop? The answer might be, it doesn't. Illegal hits are being penalized left and right and head trauma is being closely monitored, yet the attrition rate continues to climb. The list of stars sidelined for the season could fill the Pro Bowl and it's no fluke.

Is there a possible solution in increasing the severity of a personal foul? Fines are a drop in the bucket to millionaires. If hits came with the potential of ejection, as they do in college, it might temper the dangerous blows, but that begs yet another question. Are officiating crews going to be willing to take on the added responsibility of deciding whether players are thrown out of a game? Not a chance. There's too much money at stake in the billion-dollar business that is the NFL. Short of that, the carnage goes on.

Technology has made helmets more resistant to the concussive force of contact to the head, though the injured reserve numbers grow and grow. There doesn't seem to be the equipment, at least at this point, that can sufficiently blunt the force of the trauma. As athletes continue to get bigger, stronger and faster, they've become guided missiles in shoulder pads.

Granted, I'm a Bengals fan, so my perspective may be skewed, but there's also been a substantial drop in the overall quality of play. Some teams are marginally talented to begin with and when backups have to be inserted, the performance diminishes even more. Fans are noticing, too. The cost of going to a game many times isn't justified by the middling product on the field, no matter how rabid of a fan you are. Attendance and viewership is down — how much depends on whom you ask. While there are other contributing factors, plain old bad football certainly is one of them and people are simply finding other things to do on Sunday afternoons.

The trickle down effect of the injuries and their potential long-term effect has also reached the younger levels, where participation is on a modest decline

As one discussion on the subject suggested, this is more the tip of a glacier than it is the tip of an avalanche, but Roger Goodell better pay attention. If the overpaid commissioner assumes he can maintain business as usual, he and his league could end up out of business. Every major sport has its own set of problems, but football is facing a crisis unlike any other. The shield is no longer impregnable. It's black and blue and at this rate, it isn't going to hold up forever.

Football's a great game, but it's the great players who make it great and the ranks are dwindling. To assume it will always be around on winter Sundays is no sure thing anymore.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at


Sports reporter

Jim was keeping standings on his chalkboard from the time he could print and keeping kickball stats in grade school at St. Bridget's. He covers all manner of prep sports for The Times and is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan.