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Between The Lines: Is the NFL interested in protecting its players?

The quarterback took the snap from the center and faded back for a pass, needing a touchdown to win the game. He saw his receivers were covered by defenders and dodged a few blitzing defenders to buy time.

Suddenly, a defender slipped on the turf and one of his receivers broke free in the middle of the field with an open path to waltz freely into the end zone. What the quarterback had not seen was the other defender lurking in the area.

The two players collided at the same time the ball reached the receiver. The receiver was reduced to a crumpled heap on the ground, no movement to be had.

Football is a dangerous sport. The nature of the game places a lot of onus on its product:  the players on the field. The biggest governing entity in the sport, the National Football League, does a terrible job of protecting its players.

The average NFL career runs between three and six years in length. And once a player’s time in the league is over, the league is over you.

The “Not-Friendly League” ended a dispute with its referees over their pension plans, which is ridiculous enough as it is. They are in charge of polishing the product and on some level, protecting the product. Even they get the support necessary for when their careers end.

The scab referees that sat in for the professionals for the first three weeks of the referee strike were believed to be costing the game its integrity.

But in a league that hauled in $9 billion in revenue last year (yes, billion with a “b”), the executives want to keep their already bulging pockets lined.

So if they can’t sign on the dotted line for the men in stripes, they sure as heck wont put their John Hancock on checks for the men in jerseys.

 The proof is in the science: The majority of players who have given their whole lives to the league get nothing in return except a downward slide out of the public eye, only to be brought back into view when something tragic happens.

So players have to keep playing. They are socialized into the school of thought that they need to play as long as they can in order to earn a living for themselves and their families.

They keep putting their bodies on the line for that paycheck, but also for that pride.

All players do not do that, however. Kris Dielman, a former offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers, got hit while in the scrum on a play and was visibly wobbly on the sideline. He went back into the game with clear signs of a concussion.

After last season, he retired, not wanting to subject his body to further abuse, but also because he saw the writing on the wall — he was not going to get help after his career.

So where does the NFL draw the line: The dotted line? The sideline? Or the lifeline? 

Nick Robbe is the sports editor for The Post. Email him at

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