NEW YORK (AP) - A high-profile rookie quarterback gets slammed in the side of the head and his Super Bowl-winning coach describes him as "shaken up."
An All-Pro receiver admits to getting "my bell rung pretty good" as being part of the game, and if a player gets concussed, "you've got to keep on playing."
NFL executives want to change the culture of the league and all of football to reduce head injuries. So far this season, there's evidence it's going to be a tough road.
"The challenge is everywhere and for everyone in the sport," says perennial Pro Bowl defensive back Troy Vincent, now a league executive. "It's a shared responsibility and a personal accountability when you participate in this game, no matter what level.
"A culture change must come on the grass roots level, in Pop Warner, in high schools, in the colleges, and in the NFL. It has to be the parents, the coaches, the players, anyone in charge, so player safety becomes a learned behavior."
League executives seem more apt to claim progress and insist their perspective is not influenced by the 3,500 ex-players suing the NFL for mishandling or ignoring head injuries. Players are more ambivalent, critical of the league yet also giving it credit and recognizing they play a risky game.
"I think a lot of that by the NFL is done just to protect their own hides," says Broncos linebacker Keith Brooking, now in his 15th NFL season. "I mean, obviously with the lawsuits and the media attention that concussions are getting currently, it's all about the dollar, it's a smart business move to be proactive in that. But, I mean, in return, what does that equal? It equals taking care of guys more, and as far as the long-term effects, hopefully there will be a difference made as far as our long-term health goes.
"It's positive. But whether it's done from the right initiative I don't know."
The NFL insists its motives are pure, and believes its health and safety policies are working. It cites the thousands of dollars in fines handed out for unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness having caused a decline in the number of such hits.
"Guys are going to hit the head of opponents or use their head fewer and fewer times," says Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations who oversees league discipline for safety issues. "It's definitely encouraging and it's not just occasionally making adjustments, but it's in every game."