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June 30, 2013

MULLEN: What if there was no more football?

With apologies to John Lennon, “Imagine there’s no football, it isn’t hard to do, no blocks and tackles, and no extra points too, imagine Sooners and Cowboys, living life in peace ...”

OK, that’s taking things a bit too far. No football? Unthinkable. You might as well do away with air, water, bacon or doughnuts, for crying out loud.

No football? That was the possibility raised the other day by former Detroit Lions great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Lem Barney.

Speaking at a football camp recently in Southfield, Mich., Barney had some harsh words for his former profession.

He said within the next two decades, football will disappear, and added he wishes he had been a truck driver or a cab driver, anything but a football player.

He said society will do away with football because of the game’s inherent violence, and increasing awareness of the dangers of head trauma and the deaths of former football stars like Bubba Smith, Dave Duerson and Junior Seau.

Sunday he backed off, somewhat, saying the camp setting was not the proper forum for his remarks, though he said he stands by them. He said he doesn’t want to discourage young men from playing the game, he just wants them to do it safely.

From the pee-wee level to the pros, efforts are being made to make the game safer. Players no longer are being taught to lead with their heads when they tackle, the amount of contact allowed in practice is changing, players with concussions are not allowed to return to the field before they pass a battery of tests and devices that sense possible concussions are being tested.

At present there is no device that will keep football players free from concussions, said Dave Halstead, technical director for Southern Impact Research Center, a testing lab for sports equipment, on ABC’s “Nightline.”

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