Player safety must be NFL priority (Fox Sports)

Brett Favre, Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner were targets of the New Orleans Saints’ pay-for-performance scheme, one of many revelations as the league announced sanctions Wednesday.

It wasn’t disclosed by the NFL if the bounties were literally placed on the stars’ heads, a scary thought for player safety advocates.

“When you hear about players being targeted, one of the first things you worry about is headhunting,” said Kevin Guskiewicz, professor at the University of North Carolina and member of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee. “There are numerous ways to knock a player out of a game. I hate to even think that they’d plan that out so methodically.”

Researchers have increasingly uncovered the dangers of traumatic brain injuries and the NFL — maybe a bit late for some experts’ liking — has taken the issue of concussed players more seriously in recent seasons. The NFL has responded by tightening concussion protocols, punishing players for dangerous hits, moving kickoffs forward 5 yards and adding athletic trainers to press boxes to monitor players.

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Whatever the motivations, Lisa Gfeller likes the message the sanctions sent. Her son, Matthew, was killed after a helmet-to-helmet hit during a high school football game in North Carolina in 2008.

“Everything starts with the NFL,” Gfeller said. “The younger players and their families look up to the NFL. Whatever the league does trickles down to the lower levels. It’s good to see the commissioner take charge. I really hope the he continues with that trajectory.”

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