Johnson: NFL set up for 'abuse of power'

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Johnson: NFL set up for 'abuse of power'

President Barack Obama is the latest high-ranking individual to question the safety of football, but it's been a hot topic long before that.

Over the past couple years, the NFL has tried to take steps to prevent "concussions" by limiting what defenders can do. Essentially, they've tried to take big hits out of the game.

That obviously hasn't sat well with players on defense linebackers, safeties, etc. who are trying to make a living stopping offenses from gaining yards and scoring points. One linebacker, Ravens' Bernard Pollard, said today that with the way things are trending in the NFL, it may not be around in 30 years. Fans will lose interest in a game that has changed too much than what they fell in love with.

Former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson is living proof that concussions and the overall physical nature of football has long lasting health effects. Johnson has been a part of tests, and has both written and spoken out about the dangers that come along with football, specifically brain damage. He himself suffers from post-concussion syndrome.

But does he fear for the future of the game?

"No, I don't," Johnson said on Felger and Mazz, in New Orleans for the Super Bowl. "I think the only thing- here's my involvement: I've been thinking about this a lot on my drive up here today. All I ever wanted is for guys to know the risk. What we always say is the blanket statement: football is inherently a dangerous game. We get that. But you know what we know now, that nobody is quite saying it like this: football can cause brain damage. End of story. You can get brain disease from playing football. End of story. Now that everybody knows that, go do what you want to do. Now you know all the risk.

"People say, 'Ted back in the day, come on, you knew the risk. You knew what you were getting into. You signed up for that.' I did to a point. I knew I could tear my bicep, all the things I could identify with that I've seen happen to other guys, I get that. No one ever told me that playing football could potentially lead to having brain damage or brain disease, now that we know it's called CTE."

But Johnson thinks the league is going too far, or doing the wrong things to help the issue. It's not wide receivers taking on huge hits that are ending up with debilitating post-concussion symptoms. It's the ones on the lines doing normal football things, or making normal hits over, and over, and over.

But is there anything those players can do about it? That's the name of the game. And according to Johnson, going to the coaches about it, or being labeled as a guy who can't go in there and take the hits, will get you out of a job fast. After all, coaches have all the say.

"The thing about football that makes it so unique is that it's a coaches league. They have the power. It's not like I'm at Orlando and Dwight Howard can get Stan Van Gundy fired. I can't get my coaches fired. They have all the power. So there's an abuse of power there. The system is set up so that they have an abuse of power, and it's not fair for the guys when a coach can have that much power over if a guy plays or doesn't play, and use his power as leverage to get him out there maybe before he should be ready to play."

Gronk: 'Can't wait to compete again and play ball'

Gronk: 'Can't wait to compete again and play ball'

Rob Gronkowski's been having more than his share of fun this offseason, based off what we've seen on social media, but he sent out a Tweet Sunday night that makes it sound as if he can't wait for training camp to begin.

Gronkowski played in only eight games in 2016 because of back issues that eventually required surgery, and missed all of the Patriots' run to the Super Bowl championship.

Of course, if you check Gronk's timeline beneath his 'I-can't-wait-to-start-playing-again' Tweet, you'll find a) a couple of hypes for his new show MVP, b) a re-Tweet in which he's helping Mojo Rawley get ready for Wrestlemania, and c) quasi-ads for the various products he endorses.

Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

Five things to look for from the NFL annual meetings this week

PHOENIX -- Bill Belichick may not be speaking with the media here this week, but there will be plenty for us to examine at the annual league meetings. 

Reporters were informed via a team spokesperson that the Patriots coach would not be in attendance at the AFC coaches breakfast Tuesday morning -- where in the past orange juice has been sipped and tape recorders have been bulldozed -- due to a scouting conflict. 

The breakfast is not mandatory for coaches so for Belichick to use his time at a college pro day (Florida, Texas and Iowa State all have theirs scheduled for Tuesday) or a private workout comes as little surprise. He's been busy on the Trail of Due Diligence in recent weeks, making visits to Vanderbilt, Ohio State and Michigan in order to get a closer look at prospects.

Five weeks behind, remember? No days off. 

Patriots owner Robert Kraft is planning to meet with reporters on Monday so we'll have an opportunity to hear from him on a variety of topics when that comes to pass. 

Here are some of the other Patriots-related stories we'll be doing some digging on this week as we keep you updated with blog posts, occasional television hits, tweets (@PhilAPerry), Instagram shots (@PhilAPerry), and maybe even a podcast or two.

-- What does the rest of the league think when it sees the way the Patriots have attacked this offseason? How will the new pieces fit? Do other coaches and executives see it as Belichick going all in on 2017? Or is this just a case of a team adhering to its motto of doing "what's best for the football team" -- both in the short and long-term?

-- What's next for the Patriots? They're not done building the roster, so where might they turn next? Will they add other lower-level free agents? Will they be looking to trade back into the first and second rounds? Which positions seem to be of interest to them in the draft, and how might that signal the direction this roster is headed?

-- What is the feeling on the future at the quarterback position in New England? We know the Patriots aren't looking to give away Jimmy Garoppolo, but do people around the league really feel as though a haul of draft picks won't get the Patriots to think twice about trading him? Is it possible that in this rare scenario -- where the franchise quarterback is playing at an MVP-level but headed into his 40-year-old season -- people could see the Patriots paying two passers a starter's salary?

-- Will anything happen with Malcolm Butler before the meetings are out? Some have speculated that if his status as a restricted free agent (with an unsigned first-round tender) is to change anytime soon, it could happen here, where presumably his agent will be able to hear offers from one or more clubs in person. Will Butler find a team willing to give him an offer sheet and relinquish its first-round pick to the Patriots? Or will he sign his tender -- whether it's with the intent to play for the Patriots in 2017, or to be traded?

-- Rules changes are coming. We just don't know which ones. Will the linebacker leap (executed by Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin under Belichick) be eliminated? Will Stephen Gostkowski soon be looking to blast kickoffs through the uprights due to the passing of a rule that would place the ball at the 20 as opposed to the 25 for such a feat? Will real-time replay decisions suddenly shift from the officials on the field to the NFL offices at 345 Park Avenue? We'll let you know which proposals are held up, which fall flat, and how the Patriots might be impacted. Belichick and his staff did not submit any proposals for the second consecutive year.