Recently, former NFL quarterback Sonny Jurgensen had an interview with Andrea Adelson at the Orlando Sentinel as part of their "State of Hall of Famers" series, and he had some interesting things to say about the past and present state of the NFL.
Currently, one of the biggest issues being addressed by the NFL is player health, and how concussions are dealt with. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has even gone as far as to mandate baseline neuropsychological tests, and to order all team medical personnel to attend seminars related to concussion detection and treatment. As an example of exactly how far the league has had to go to make changes, here's what Jurgensen said about how concussions were handled when he played:
"They didn't have concussions in my day," Jurgensen says. "You were dinged. You went to the sidelines, and the doctor would hold up three fingers and say, 'How many fingers do you see?' You always said 'three' because that's how many he'd always hold up."
Without fail, the doctor sent the players back onto the field after answering the question correctly. "Do you know how many times I had my lights put out?" Jurgensen says. "It's just a different game. A completely different game."
At first, the idea of always holding up three fingers sounds humorous until you realize that these guys were punishing their bodies game in and game out, and the very people employed to help them weren't doing anything of the sort. It's exactly why an organization like "Gridiron Greats" is so adamant about getting assistance for former players.
Jurgensen also had an interesting view on how the league has changed over the years. Especially with regard to the young guys when they first come into the NFL<*cough*PacMan*cough*>:
"It was a privilege to be able to play professional football," he says. "I played 18 years and did something I enjoyed doing. It isn't that way anymore. It's an entitlement now. Guys come in the league, they get more money showing up for camp than I made in 18 years."
I guess it's safe to assume that Jurgensen never made it "rain", though with his arm strength it would have been more like "making it deluge".
Also, Jurgensen doesn't like the fact that much of the playcalling is being done by a guy in a booth indulging in stadium food:
"To give an example, it's third-and-10," Jurgensen says. "I need to make a play. What play am I going to call? I am going to call a play that I have confidence in. What is the coach calling? Is he calling something he likes?
"This is the crucial part of the game and this guy up in the booth having a hot dog and a Coke is calling the play instead of me? I don't like that."
Although, I think Sonny may have just assumed all coaches were like that. Bill Parcells actually called the plays on the field, and he ate a Cowboy Cheese Steak while housing Budweisers.
And steroids? Jurgensen said they weren't as prevalent when he played, and that the drug of choice was speed.
"The guys would congregate in this locker in the back," Jurgensen says. "I knew what they were doing. I'd see a guy walking to the water fountain with his hand cupped, and I'd go over and hit his hand and they'd come out on the floor. I'd go, 'Have a good game!'"
Unfortunately, if someone were to do that today they would probably get shot by someone's posse in the parking lot after the game.
Jurgensen's interview really gives a good insight into how far the NFL has come in certain respects, and how far it's seemingly regressed in others. It is a shame that some of the younger players seem to feel entitled to something just because they play pro football, and it's good to hear that former players don't appreciate it whatsoever. Hopefully the league will listen to them on a variety of subjects ranging from player health and benefits to personal conduct, and the NFL can shake off the bad press that it's accumulated in recent times.