"It's a serious thing," Montgomery said. "It's scary."
When the President of the United States refers to fans perhaps having a guilty conscience when watching a game and parents thinking twice before allowing a child to play — as Barack Obama did in a recent interview with The New Republic — it sends a strong signal about what confronts the NFL today.
"If I was worried about my health," 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said, "I wouldn't be playing football."
So the league must figure out how to deal with "walking a fine line," as 49ers CEO Jed York described it: The two-sided task of making the game safer, which Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledges is imperative, while not making it "too safe," thereby diminishing the popularity of an enterprise that is violent by its very nature.
"There's no question that that is a bit of a conundrum. But to me, we've got to place more weight on player safety," New York Giants co-owner John Mara said. "The rules changes that we've implemented over the past five or six years have not made the game any less exciting. If anything, the game is as exciting as ever, and I strongly believe that we can make additional improvements in the rules and we're not going to lose anything in terms of excitement on the field."