Though the NFL has taken great leaps to make the league a safer place, the fact remains that football players put their lives in danger every time they step on the field. That truth, according to an article released Tuesday, scares commissioner Roger Goodell to death.
“One of [Goodell’s] greatest fears: An NFL player is going to die on the field,” Don Van Natta Jr. writes in his profile of the commissioner for ESPN The Magazine.
“It’s happened only once. Lions wide receiver Chuck Hughes died of a heart attack late in a game on Oct. 24, 1971. Within the past year, Goodell has told friends privately that he believes if the game’s hard-knocks culture doesn’t change, it could happen again. ‘He’s terrified of it,’ says a Hall of Fame player who speaks regularly with Goodell. ‘It wouldn’t just be a tragedy. It would be awfully bad for business.’ “
Goodell declined to be interviewed for the article — which also touches on his relationship with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, the league’s recent lockouts and the Bountygate scandal — but Van Natta reportedly compiled information from more than 80 sources close to the commissioner to paint an in-depth picture of the most powerful man in football.