Jim Irsay is the third NFL owner to question the link between playing football and degenerative brain disease and the Indianapolis Colts owner did it in his own inimitable way.
“I believe this: that the game has always been a risk, you know, and the way certain people are. Look at it,” he told the Sports Business Daily last week during the NFL’s annual meeting. “You take an aspirin, I take an aspirin, it might give you extreme side effects of illness and your body … may reject it, where I would be fine. So there is so much we don’t know.”
The NFL has clarified what will be its message going forward about the possible health dangers from playing its multi-billion-dollar sport and Irsay’s comments, echo, to a degree, comments made by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Bob McNair. Jones said it was “absurd” to think that CTE and football were linked based on the present data; McNair said “our medical scientists still don’t know what the cause of CTE is.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pointed out at the Super Bowl that there were “risks in sitting on the couch,” a theme that Irsay expanded on.
“Look at it: When you get into Olympic bobsledding — I could sit down and name a dozen different sports — it has always been a known factor that you know you are going in there and you are taking a risk.”
Still, Irsay points out that there’s no point in making the game so safe that it “becomes a pillow fight, so to speak. We are trying to look at everything about the safety of the game without changing the game.”
Irsay, who has battled addiction to painkillers, also spoke of possible ties between football and off-the-field violence.
“To try to tie football, like I said, to suicides or murders or what have you, I believe that is just so absurd as well and it is harmful to other diseases, harmful to things like … when you get into the use of steroids, when you get into substance abuse, you get into the illness of alcohol and addiction.” he said. “It’s a shame that gets missed, because there [are] very deadly diseases there, for instance, like alcoholism and addiction. That gets pushed to the side and [a person] says, ‘Oh, no. Football.’ To me, that’s really absurd.”