In 2019, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that implemented guidelines that clubs must follow while taking a holistic approach to both players’ health and safety. The NFL and NFLPA have worked jointly with clubs — in regards to advancing their pain management, along with their mental and behavioral health programs. Clubs must retain the services of a behavioral health team clinician that is to be available at the team’s facilities for at least 8-12 hours a week.
In collaboration with the NFLPA, the NFL is committed to helping build a positive culture around mental health by providing players and the NFL family with comprehensive mental health and wellness resources and equipping them with the tools to succeed, on and off the field, over the course of their lives.
This is in light of recent stories involving NFL players sitting out due to mental health reasons and the support that those players received from not only their teams, the media, but the league as well. Roger Goodell supporting his players on choosing their mental health over the game, whether momentarily or permanent, is a huge step in the right direction.
Why is this such a surprise? Well, when was the last time the league handled a situation in a positive light while possibly taking care of any future situations? It took the tragedy of Junior Seau for the league to finally acknowledge the CTE research, along with finally taking concussions seriously. If Goodell is going to support this, he needs to be all-in or resign.
In service of the NFL’s commitment to players’ long-term health and well-being on and off the field, the league provides collectively bargained mental wellness benefits and resources to current and former players.
Players such as Bucs guard Ali Marpet, Saints LB Demario Davis, Dolphins QB Jacoby Brissett, NFL Legend Michael Robinson, amongst others, have stepped forward to discuss their mental health. The league has dedicated the month of May to NFL Mental Health Month while also recognizing the month of October as World Mental Health Month. They also have partnered with the USO yearly for the Salute To Service month.
As a combat veteran diagnosed with TBI and PTSD, I can understand where these players are coming from when they need a mental break because I also have had to learn the similarities of my conditions to an athlete who suffers severe head trauma in about the same timespan as your average enlisted soldier.
As a lifelong football fan, I’d love to see Goodell and the league bridge the mental health gap between players and those who have helped defend their freedom. If there’s one thing Goodell can do, it’s getting in front of any future mental health crisis, unlike the way the government has done for its veterans. Continue ensuring your players (past and present) have the outlet to talk or get that help, and there’s a high chance you’d be saving a life or two.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, below are some links and phone numbers. It’s never too late.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
The Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Admin (800)662-4357