For pure danger, there are a few professions to choose from — soldier, coal miner and firefighter among them. But for the combined tantalizing potential of glory, glamor, peril and riches, there may be no better job than professional football player.
Now, the peril part is an increasingly outsized and palpable dimension of the game. Some of those in and around it are dropping out: Baltimore Ravens lineman John Urschel, out at the age of 26, and ESPN commentator Ed Cunningham, who says he can no longer cheer for the sport. When he retired in 1992 at 29, Jets wide receiver Al Toon called the sport "modern-day gladiating."
But NFL players — like all those plying the dangerous professions — know what they are getting into, right? Or should greater safety be forced on the game?
We spoke to four experts on professional danger: two football observers, a boxing journalist, and a retired CIA operative.
What they said: Erin C. Tarver, a professor at Emory University, suggests that we only imagine that football players fully grasp their exposure to CTE. "We need to consider what truly informed consent to this outcome requires, and whether it's possible," she writes. But Michael Rosenthal, editor-in-chief of Ring magazine, said boxers, and by extension football players, are in fact well aware of what they face at work. "They, and athletes in other dangerous sports, must take full responsibility for their fate," he said.
Read the full responses here.