Solomon Wilcots played in the NFL in the late-1980s and early 1990s, and as dangerous as football was and is, he can’t get over the advancements in player safety that we’ve seen over the last decade.
“You can’t even compare it to what it was like in the ’80s or even the early ’90s or even the late ’90s,” the CBS Sports and NFL Network analyst said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “The data, particularly as it pertains to player safety and player health, it’s increased exponentially. Now, for instance, during training camp, players are going to be wearing a chip, and it tells the team if a player is overheating, if a player is dehydrated. That data is there. It tells when a player is being overworked, when they’ve reached their capacity, and in many cases, teams are going to actually take players off the field. I could not imagine going back and telling my old high school coach, ‘Hey, the computer says (I) got to take the day off.’ It would never fly, but that’s where we’re at today. The analytical data drives the decision-making as to who’s practicing, how much you’re practicing, let alone how games are won or lost.”
Players, quite simply, are playing better for longer. Thirty is no longer a death sentence for running backs. Quarterbacks are playing well into their late-30s, sometimes longer.
“Tom Brady says he’s going to play until 40 – and he’s right,” Wilcots said. “Tom Brady invests heavily in his overall health. He’s well-armed to be much better throughout the course of a season. He said his arm feels better today at 38 than it did at 28 throughout the course of a 16-game season. That’s because he has good nutrition, good health, takes much better care of his body because of the knowledge and information that he has at his disposal. But he is an example of just about every player in the National Football League who expects to play longer because they eat better, they train better – in every way shape or form, they’re more better-prepared to play. They’re finding that the body can last longer when you take good care of it. That’s where players are at today. They have learned so much more about the science of taking care of themselves, the science of training and how to prolong their careers. And boy, they’re putting that knowledge to good use.”
Oddly enough, the field might be the safest place for players, especially during the offseason.
“Right now, NFL coaches are just kind of holding their breath,” Wilcots said. “They’re biting their nails. What they do not want players to do – as you saw last year on the Fourth of July with the unfortunate accident with Jason Pierre-Paul – we see players making (bad choices). We want good, sound, solid decision-making from these players so they can get to training camp in one piece so that they don’t derail their opportunities to take the field, whether it’s through a suspension or some kind of freak injury. They want players to get back in the building. Coaches feel much better when they’re under the control of the team, under the watchful eye of the team. A lot of free time, as we have seen, is not good for all players.”