This frustrates concussion plaintiffs, some of whom have died while waiting for the litigation to play out in court. Moreover, six former NFL players have committed suicide in the past two years, including former Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, whose brain showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
"If your son or daughter got sick from eating hamburger and had to go to the hospital, they would shut down the industry to find out what happened," said California attorney Mel Owens, a former NFL player who represents hundreds of plaintiffs. "The 787s catch on fire? They ground them. Player dies, player commits suicide — business as usual. Here they've got this industry causing deaths and near-deaths and quality of life issues, but it's business as usual. Where is the outrage?"
Nothing provokes more outrage in Howie Long than the campaign by league owners to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18, when they know it will lead to more harm. The owners favor an 18-game season because it would mean greater revenue, but statistics clearly show the majority of injuries occur in the regular season. For an NFL father, it's one of his greatest concerns about sending another son into the profession.
"I get angry when I hear someone in a suit talk about, 'What's two more games? It's not that much,' " Howie says. "You know what? Throw some stuff on and let's go outside, and I'm gonna light your ass up. And we're gonna do it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow and then again next week. And you're gonna start blanking and curl up into a ball."
On the final day of the NFL's rookie symposium, the league shuttled its newest young employees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where the game's fierce history intersected with its wide-eyed future.