Oakland Raiders HC Jack Del Rio Talks On NFL Concussions


Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has been in the NFL as long as anybody, going from playing days as a linebacker to the coaching ranks as a head coach/defensive coordinator since 2002. Going immediately from playing an eleven year career in the league to coaching the newest head coach of the Raiders has been around the game since the days of Joe Montana to the days of Peyton Manning in seeing the game form into what it is today after entering the league in 1985.

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That time served in the NFL as both a player as well as a coach makes Del Rio an experienced voice on the issues of the game from both standpoints as a former player as well as a current head coach of one of the league’s 32 teams, particularly safety issues that were a key topic as usual during the owners meetings last week. A topic that Del Rio was not afraid to share his opinions on while talking to the media.

Del Rio weighed in on the concerns of concussions that have shortened many careers in the league, something that he feels can be curbed by players wearing their helmets more snugly, noting that he has witnessed far too many helmets popping off after tackles or contact as a head coach.

“You want to talk about player safety issues? Let’s see if we can stop the helmets from popping off,” said Del Rio at the owners meetings, who added that his helmet fit so snug he had to use Vaseline under his ears to slide it on according to ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez.

“Helmets have gone to comfort, and not necesarrily to safety. That’s my pet peeve. These things, when they pop off, how do you have a helmet that pops off? Man, I always wanted to make sure that my head had a shell around it. I didn’t ever want to be vulnerable and have my helmet off in a pile. That could be bad.”

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Del Rio also said he only experienced one diagnosed concussion during his playing career, something that may not be a shock considering how little concussions were diagnosed back in the 80’s and early 90’s when Del Rio played before retiring in the 1996 season.

“One,” said Del Rio of how many concussions he suffered while playing.  “One in college, and that was it. My helmet never popped off, either. Not one time did my helmet ever come off.”

Del Rio’s opinion is an anecdotal one as there is no hard evidence that tighter worn helmets would prevent concussions, but there could be some validity to the safety issue of the amount of helmets that fly off the heads of players at the point of contact. A loose helmet is likely less safe than a properly worn one, even if it doesn’t entirely curb concussions the added safety gives good weight to Del Rio’s argument that players should begin wearing their helmets tighter to give some sort of added protection for themselves.