Pollard preparing "just to go play another freaking game"
Ravens safety Bernard Pollard knows as well as anyone about the physical nature of football. He thrives on the contact. His Twitter handle is @Crushboy31. He dishes out thunderous, bone-rattling hits nearly every time he takes the field, as New England fans can attest.
It was Pollard who fell into Tom Brady's leg and tore his knee ligaments when Pollard was with the Chiefs; it was Pollard who rolled over Rob Gronkowski's ankle during the AFC Championship Game last year. It was Pollard who hammered Wes Welker in the AFC Championship Game this year, and it was Pollard who knocked Patriots running back Stevan Ridley unconscious in that same game.
And that's just against one team.
Pollard has shelled out well into the six figures in fines over his career, and drew another fine upwards of $15,000 for that hit on Welker. To Pollard, that is just part of the game, but it's a part of the game the NFL clearly is growing increasingly wary of, with the litany of concussion-related lawsuits and the increasing clamor of long-term damage to players.
Pollard and others have often implied the gladiator aspect is one thing that makes the NFL so popular. Take that away, and what comes next for the NFL?
"Thirty years from now, I don't think it will be in existence," Pollard told CBSSports.com. "I could be wrong. It's just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going -- where they [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they're throwing flags and everything else -- there's going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it."
Pollard, though, appears to be conflicted. He has, for the most part, gotten up from every one of his jaw-rattling hits, but he fears that one day, on some NFL field, someone won't.
"The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety]," Pollard said, "but, at the same time, [coaches] want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you're going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I'm waiting for ... and, Lord, I hope it doesn't happen ... is a guy dying on the field. We've had everything else happen there except for a death. ...
"You've got guys who are 350 pounds running 4.5 and 4.4s, and these owners and coaches want scout-run blockers and linemen to move walls. At the same time, they tell you, 'Don't hit here, and don't hit there, or we'll take your money.' Like I said, I hope I'm wrong, but I just believe one day there's going to be a death that takes place on the field because of the direction we're going."