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Bills GM: Used ‘poor choice of words’ when discussing violent nature of football

Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley is backtracking on his comments that football is not meant to be played by humans. (Bill Wippert/Associated Press)
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Buffalo Bills General Manager Doug Whaley is now saying that his public musing, inferring humans were not built to play the the game of football, was simply a misstep and the game is set to prosper for the foreseeable future.

The Bills released a statement Wednesday from Whaley a day after he was quoted on-record calling football a sport humans are not meant to play. The comments were in response to a question asked of Whaley during a radio interview about the status of an injured Buffalo player. In his latest statement, Whaley says he made a “poor choice of words” and that the NFL’s “safety advancements and numerous rule changes” have made the game much safer.

Buffalo Bills GM says humans aren’t made for a ‘violent game’ like football

The statement was released via the team’s public relations Twitter account:

“Clearly I used a poor choice of words in my comment yesterday morning. As a former player who has the utmost respect and love for the game, the point that I was trying to make is that football is a physical game and injuries are a part of it. Playing football no doubt is very physically, mentally and emotionally challenging, and that is all part of what makes the game so compelling to play and watch. The game has more protection for players now than ever, thanks largely to the safety advancements and numerous rule changes made by our league and promoted to all levels of football. I believe our game continues to have a bright future and I hope that this statement provides clarity as to the intent of my earlier comment.”

In his carefully-worded clarifying comment, Whaley backtracks his prior statement on the sport, downplaying the inherent violence the sport exhibits, with his harshest criticism now being that football is “physically, mentally and emotionally challenging,” though that has its legs cut off by the next clause positing this is the reason many follow the sport.

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The issue came about when Whaley was asked about Bills standout receiver Sammy Watkins in a interview Tuesday with local Buffalo radio station WGR 550. Whaley’s response to a question about Watkins’s recovery timetable quickly found itself being featured in numerous media articles, as the former college player seemingly admitted what no other general manager has been recorded saying — that football is a violent game not meant for the human species:

“This is the game of football,” he told WGR 550 radio. “Injuries are part of it. It’s a violent game that I personally don’t think humans are supposed to play. These things are going to come up. We trust in our medical staff and in each individual athlete to do what they have to do to get back on the field.”

Whaley’s initial comments were correct in the sense that the human body is not designed for high-speed, head-on collisions. But the idea that his comments were simply non-revolutionary scientific analysis is not what caught the eye of those who covered the league.

Whaley’s comments stood out as a rare case in which a high-ranking NFL or team official offered a negative comment regarding the inherent long-term safety risks the game possesses. The NFL’s handling of the concussion-related CTE crisis was the one of items many, including the Early Lead, Deadspin and Yahoo, pointed out in the subsequent reports on Whaley’s comments. His initial musing came just days after the latest entry from Outside the Lines on the league’s attempts to affect a study by National Institute of Health on the degenerative brain disease.

Whaley and the Bills will now attempt to move forward and leave behind both Whaley’s comments and the firestorm created by its other media-related gaffe made Tuesday — Buffalo was openly criticized when it tried to limit the information media members could write about in regards to the team’s current organized team activity workouts.

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