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CBSSports.com National Columnist

NFL is killing its players, and league doesn't care


Hate Mail: UConn women bring the heat

The NFL is killing its players, literally leading them to an early grave -- and now the NFL is trying to kill them even faster.

That's a fact, people.

Of all the football statistics you'll read in your time on Earth, none will be as shocking as this one: According to a 2006 report in the St. Petersburg Times, for every season a player spends on an NFL roster, his life expectancy decreases by almost three years.

Read that again.

The average American male lives to be almost 75. According to the Times report, an NFL player, whose career lasts roughly four years on average, lives to be 55. The more years a player spends in the NFL, the more games and practices he survives, the quicker he dies.

All-Injury Team
Pos. Name Team Injury
WR Lee Evans* Bills Foot
WR Steve Smith* Giants Knee
TE Dallas Clark* Colts Hand
T Steve Hutchinson* Vikings Thumb
T Max Starks Steelers Neck
G Davin Joseph* Bucs Foot
G Travelle Wharton Panthers Toe
C Jeff Faine Bucs Triceps
QB Tony Romo* Cowboys Shoulder
RB Frank Gore* 49ers Hip
RB Clinton Portis* Redskins Groin
Pos. Name Team Injury
DL Mario Williams* Texans Hernia
DL Kyle Vanden Bosch* Lions Neck
DL Kris Jenkins* Jets Knee
DL Aaron Kampman* Jaguars Knee
LB Shawne Merriman* Bills Achilles
LB Elvis Dumervil* Broncos Pectoral
LB DeMeco Ryans* Texans Achilles
CB Aqib Talib Bucs Hip
CB Al Harris* Dolphins Hamstring
S Bob Sanders* Colts Elbow
S Jim Leonhard Jets Shin
Kicking game
Pos. Name Team Injury
K Stephen Gostkowski* Patriots Quadriceps
P Josh Bidwell* Redskins Hip
LS David Binn* Chargers Hamstring
*-Player has appeared in at least one Pro Bowl

So by all means, NFL owners, let's increase the regular season to 18 games! You cold-hearted bastards. And a merry Christmas to all of you, you greedy jackals. Add more games. More tickets sold. More concessions, more parking, more television money.

More early deaths.

What do NFL owners care? To them, players aren't people. They're commodities to be bought and sold, acquired and released. They're pieces in a brutal game of chess that has seen 273 players placed on injured reserve this season.

Read that statistic again.

Exactly 273 players have suffered season-ending injuries this year. That's almost nine players per team. That's one-sixth of the NFL active roster of 53. Of those 273 players -- let's make it 280, since the official NFL injury report lists an additional seven players who aren't on the IR but have been identified as "out of the season" because of injury -- 14 are listed with head injuries, and 13 with neck injuries, and one with a spine injury.

That's 28 possibly catastrophic injuries, slightly less than one per team.

To play devil's advocate, I'm aware that injuries are going to happen in the NFL. The only way to avoid these injuries, these potential catastrophes, this absolute life shrinkage of NFL players, is to do away with the NFL.

And I'm not calling for that. So maybe I'm a hypocrite. Maybe I'm as bloodthirsty as the average NFL owner.

No, I don't want the elimination of the NFL. That's crazy talk. But so is the discussion -- to put it mildly; most insiders say an 18-game regular season is a done deal -- of lengthening the NFL season by two more games, or 12.5 percent. What happens to the average life expectancy of an NFL player with another 12.5 percent added to his slate of games? It would decrease even more, obviously. Every season saps some life from a pro football player. Every game. Broken down further, every snap. The violence on a pro football field is described by those who have played it as a series of car crashes on every play, and the car crashes get worse each year as players become bigger, stronger and faster.

The NFL, meanwhile, is transparently hypocritical on this issue. On the one hand, players are now fined for various forms of viciousness on the field. That protects people. On the other hand, players soon will be forced to play two more regular-season games simply because the league wants to make more money. That jeopardizes people.

Players too would make more money with a longer season, but they don't want it. To quote former NFL player Sean Morey, now the co-chairman of the NFL Players Association's Mackey-White Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, "You can just see they're deflated" as they consider the 18-game schedule.

Players want to play, yes. But they want to enjoy their lives after football. Hard to enjoy all that money, all that fame, when you're dead at 55.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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