Lions center Dominic Raiola has made his peace with an uncomfortable truth about the NFL and the game of football itself: it has serious physical consequences for those who play the game. Raiola told the Detroit News that memory loss, concussions and all the other risks that come with the game are an acceptable price to pay.
"It's common knowledge people are going to suffer. Memory loss is going to come. I am ready for it. It's worth it; totally worth it. This is the best job in the world and I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Raiola was responding to a lawsuit filed by more than a thousand players against the league for not doing enough to prevent head trauma.
"I don't know how I could justify suing the league when I am done playing. It's given me 11 years of fun. I have fun every time I step on the field. That's what it's about. I don't think when I am home in my rocking chair when I am 40 years old that I'll be thinking about suing the NFL."
For the league, the lawsuit and larger issue of player health has to be a very serious concern. It's like living on top of a fault line. Dormant for the most part, the issue rumbles occasionally, but it has the potential to open wide and swallow the whole thing.
The NFL's success is based on its mass appeal, not just the small percentage of us who can tell you the difference between a curl and a slant route. The average fan can't tell you the specifics of the route tree, but almost all of them know the names of the players executing it.
Some of the most fanatical will bemoan the extra protections for players and changes to, and potential elimination of, the kickoff rule, but the NFL recognizes the need to strip out as much of the risk as possible, especially to its most marketable players.
Raiola's honesty gets at what Spencer Hall wrote about earlier this month, the need to recognize the inherent danger in the sport. Players and fans all have to acknowledge that reality and make their own decision about playing or watching the game.
It sounds like Raiola has acknowledged that "that's what the money's for."