When former Raiders coach John Madden would see one of his players suffer an injury, he'd ask an assistant the nature of the problem. If told the player was woozy because of a hit, Madden would breathe a sigh of relief.
"I remember saying, 'What happened to him?' " Madden said Monday. " 'Just got his head. It's not a knee. It's not an ankle. Just give him some smelling salts.' We were all that way. I did some dumb things when I was a coach. I probably said a lot of dumb things when I was a coach and a broadcaster."
But the Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster is leading an effort to raise awareness about concussions and other player safety issues. He is hopeful NFL announcers will help by starting to use the words "no go."
"We're going to use that in the video game," Madden said of his popular "Madden: NFL '12" game. "I think it ought to be used on TV. We're working to get more words like 'no go.' We're not there yet, but we want to promote awareness."
Madden, co-chairman of the NFL's player safety advisory panel, appeared on a conference call with Falcons president and NFL competition committee member Rich McKay; Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL committee that studies concussions; Dr. Adolpho Birch, NFL vice president of law and labor policy in charge of the league's steroids policy; and Giants trainer Ronnie Barnes.
"We didn't think a concussion meant anything unless you were knocked out," Madden said. "Now, we want to do anything to promote awareness at all levels. If we can do it at the NFL level, we think it can trickle down to all levels."
McKay pointed to a change in kickoff rules as further proof of the league's push to promote player safety. Owners approved moving kickoffs to the 35-yard line from the 30, which the NFL hopes will reduce the speed and impact of collisions on returns.
Said McKay: "The object is pretty simple: Make the focus player safety and find ways to put players in positions where they're not subject to unreasonable risk of injury."
Ellenbogen, co-chairman of the NFL's head, neck and spine committee, pointed to increased awareness of concussions as a critical point of emphasis.
"When in doubt , we're going to sit the player," he said. The NFL has adopted a standardized sideline concussion test to begin this season. Ellenbogen said the league also will perform long-term studies on players, even after they leave the NFL.
Birch again called for the introduction of mandatory HGH testing of players. "We need to make sure our game has the confidence of the public and our players have the confidence to succeed and don't feel the pressure to cheat," he said.
Barnes, the Giants' longtime trainer and a member of the safety advisory panel, said the league needs to make players more aware of safety issues.
"As athletic trainers and doctors in the trenches, we're always fighting the Superman warrior and the competition mentality of the players," Barnes said. "But our culture is changing. There's a real paradigm shift."