Goodell Will 'Follow the Science' For Playing Surfaces, But Not COVID

John Simmons | September 14, 2023
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We all know by now that New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles on Monday night, ending his season and significantly decreasing the Jets’ Super Bowl hopes.

Rodgers' injury reignited the debate on what the best playing surface is for NFL players. Many of the athletes have advocated for all playing surfaces to be made of natural grass instead of the turf fields many stadiums currently have - including MetLife stadium, where Rodgers got hurt.

Because this is one of the biggest stories in the NFL, league commissioner Roger Goodell joined ESPN’s “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith to discuss how he would handle the situation (that part of the discussion starts at the 1:30 mark).

It’s good that he’s not making a knee-jerk reaction to change all playing surfaces to grass just because a star player got hurt on turf. And like he said, there’s more to consider in this matter than simply if players get hurt on turf. Football is a violent game, and injuries will happen regardless of where the game is played.

But one element of his response was especially intriguing. Goodell said he would assess the situation based on how scientific research compares the rate of injury on grass and turf.

"That's how we make decisions, not because I see an injury that I don't like,” Goodell said. "Ultimately, I want our experts to come back and give it to us."

This seems logical: ask your experts what they think, and go from there. But his assertion that he follows science to make decisions regarding the physical well-being of players doesn’t quite add up to how he handled implementing COVID mandates across the NFL a few years ago.

In July of 2020, the NFL implemented a strict set of policies to stop the spread of COVID within the league, requiring everything from mask-wearing to frequent hand washing. Since this was in the middle of the outbreak when most of the country was reeling with how to handle the virus, this somewhat made sense.

Related: Are You Serious?! Olbermann Celebrates Unvaxxed Aaron Rodgers' Torn Achilles

But as time went on, they didn’t. A year after more information came out that showed preventative measures like the vaccine and mask-wearing were ineffective at best, the NFL was still ostracizing and punishing unvaccinated players for minor COVID policy infractions. Not only that, but a large number of team and league employees were required to get a booster shot, again after mountains of evidence suggesting the COVID vaccine wasn’t the magical virus cure that the media and CDC cracked it up to be.

Finally, the league gave up the ghost on all its policies in 2022, but you have to admit that none of  those COVID decisions by the league were based on science. And if Goodell were truly committed to making decisions that impacted the well-being of players based on evidence, he would have dropped those mandates much sooner that 2022.

Maybe he can get it right this time and actually look at the facts. But if there’s one thing Goodell has proven in his tenure in the NFL, it's that you never know what he’s going to do next.

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