FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Jets rookie Jamal Adams is passionate about the game of football, so much so that he said he’s willing to die playing the game.
“Literally, if I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field,” the Jets’ first-round draft pick said Monday. “And that’s not a lie.”
Adams’ comment, which produced loud cheers from an audience of about 150 people, came at an awkward moment Monday during a fan forum involving Adams, running back Matt Forte and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The panel was discussing concerns about player safety, especially in the wake of last week’s report of a study that concluded that 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players showed evidence of the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
As a defensive player, Adams wants to maintain the level of intensity that made him one of the most sought- after players in this year’s draft. So while he understands the emphasis on player safety, he acknowledged that it can be difficult to take it into account while actually playing the game.
“I’m all about making the game safer, but as a defensive player, I’m not a big fan of it,” Adams, 21, told the audience. “But I get it. I can speak for a lot of guys that play the game. We live and breathe [football]. This is what we’re so passionate about. Literally, if I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field. And that’s not a lie. There’s so much sacrifice that we go through as a team, and just connecting as one and winning ballgames. There’s nothing like playing the game of football. But again, I’m all about making the game safer.”
Goodell told reporters after the forum that he believed Adams was talking more about his passion for the game than passing off concerns about player safety. The commissioner has been outspoken about the need to make the game safer, and while he welcomes research similar to the study that came out last week, he acknowledged that much more needs to be learned about the potential impact of playing football.
“I think what he was real ly making the point of is how much he loves the game,” Goodell said. “It’s just something that means a great deal to him. I get the emotion of that.”
Asked if he felt uncomfortable when fans applauded after Adams spoke, Goodell said: “I think fans understood the emotion of what he was saying, which is, ‘We love the game.’ I think they love the game, but I don’t think anyone took it as directly as that.”
Goodell said he believes there has been a culture change in the NFL regarding player safety.
“Players now are doing a great job of raising their hand when they don’t feel right,” he said. “Teammates are raising their hands, officials, coaches. I think all of that is part of a culture change to say, ‘It’s great to be a hard-nosed player, but you play within the rules, and you also play as safely as possible.’ I think that’s something that has actually changed the way our game is being played.”
Forte, a 10-year NFL veteran, said he has concerns about head trauma but believes the game is being played more safely.
“It’s definitely concerning,” he said. “The game has changed a lot. The game is a lot safer than it used to be with rules changes and helmet design.”
Forte said he changed helmets before last season, his first with the Jets after signing as a Bears free agent, because the team said the helmet he previously wore was not as safe as other models.
Goodell said the NFL has made 47 rules changes in the last 10 years “to take the head out of the game.” He also said the league has pledged $200 million toward research and development on player safety initiatives.
“Literally, if I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field. And that’s not a lie.”
— Jets rookie safety Jamal Adams