Fans, league don't care about player injuries, former Seahawks say

Footballs fans aren’t concerned about the injuries suffered by players or the long-term effect of game-related injuries on a player’s health, according the results of a KING 5 Investigators survey of hundreds of former Seahawks players.

Football fans aren’t concerned about the injuries suffered by players or the long-term effect of game-related injuries on a player’s health, according to the results of a KING 5 Investigators survey of hundreds of former Seahawks players.

And most former players who responded to the survey don’t believe the National Football League cares about the harm the game causes to the men who play it.

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When asked, “Do you think fans understand how harmful playing in the NFL is?” -- 78 percent of responding players said “no.”

“Fans have no clue,” said Michael Jackson, who played linebacker for the Seahawks from 1979 through 1986.

The survey asked, “Do you think fans care about player health?” Sixty-seven percent of players said “no,” with just 29 percent saying fans do care.

“I guess there’s some that do care, but we’re entertainers. We’re there for the short ride,” said Alvin Powell, who manned the Seahawks offensive line during 1987 and 1988.

“Why should they (care)?” Powell added. “It’s entertainment that we do. It’s entertainment that becomes harmful, but nevertheless, it’s entertainment.”

A former defensive end echoed that point.

“If there’s a big hit, people are gonna love that. Everybody wants to see Bobby Wagner light somebody up,” said Dave Kraayeveld, who played for the Seahawks in 1978.

“Once you stop playing, you are forgotten,” wrote one former Seahawk who filled out the survey confidentially.

The KING 5 Investigators mailed a survey to all the former Seahawk players whose addresses could be found. A total of 806 surveys were sent, including a handful that went to family members of deceased players.

So far, 108 surveys have been filled out and returned. Players could complete the survey confidentially, which most did.

As previously reported, most players said they live with daily pain from football injuries. Ninety percent said they are concerned that they suffered brain damage from the hits they took on the gridiron.

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Does the NFL care?

The survey asked, “Do you think the NFL cares about player health today?” Fifty-nine percent of responding players said “no,” while 41 percent said the NFL does currently care. Many responding players emphasized that they do not believe the league was concerned for their health back in the day that they played.

“I think the NFL cares only because they have to,” wrote one former player.

“The NFL has made great strides in one area, and that’s paying players,” said former linebacker Michael Jackson. “They’re paying them for the injuries that they are going to receive. And they’ve told these kids playing today that you won’t be eligible for what these old guys are getting. You’ll never be eligible for that. So be wise in how you spend your money,” Jackson said.

Not all players feel that way.

Patrick Kerney, an NFL defensive end for 11 seasons, said he believes the league has made strides in improving player safety.

“I think owners care. They don’t want to employ people for their eventual debilitation,” said Kerney in an interview from his Connecticut home.

After he left the NFL in 2009, Kerney earned his MBA and worked a stint as the NFL’s vice president of player benefits.

Pressured to play?

The survey asked players if they were pressured to play while injured? Nearly half said they were “never” or “rarely” pressured to play while injured. The other half said they were “often” or “always” pressured to play. Many said they internalized the pressure to play -- they wanted to be on the field helping their team, regardless of their condition.

“If you’re hurt, you play. If you’re injured, you’re in the hospital. That was the mentality,” said 14-year NFL tackle Norm Evans.

-- Follow Chris Ingalls on Twitter @CJIngalls.