Super Bowl 2017 survey: Ex-NFL stars weigh in on state of the game

USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes notes that Brady and Belichick’s ages could mean that their illustrious careers might be winding down.


HOUSTON – Radio row in the days leading up to Super Bowl LI, like always, has featured a who’s who of football stars from the past and present.

USA TODAY Sports surveyed six former players from various eras to learn what they like and don’t like about today’s game, a rule they’d want to change and whether they’d play now, knowing more about health issues.

They are all Pro Bowlers. Four are Super Bowl champs. One is Hall of Famer. The group was split evenly between offense and defense.

The panel included:

  • Blaine Bishop: Former Oilers, Titans and Eagles safety, 1993-2002;
  • Bob Golic: Former Patriots, Browns and Raiders defensive tackle, 1979-92;
  • Mike Haynes: Hall of Famer, former Patriots and Raiders cornerback, 1976-89;
  • Shaun O’Hara: Former Browns and Giants guard/center, 2000-10;
  • Michael Robinson: Former 49ers and Seahawks fullback, 2006-13;
  • Reggie Wayne: Former Colts wide receiver, 2001-14.

What do you love about today’s game?

Haynes: It’s action-packed. A lot of passes, a lot of big plays. I like that. I think that’s really great. I also love that it’s a safer game, and they’re working really hard to make it safer.

Bishop: The team camaraderie that you build, kind of like a brotherhood. Everybody has a role and you have the sacrifice. We were all great players in college. But you have to relish your role and have you’re guys’ back and do your job. Really, that equates to being a professional. That’s never changed. It’s an attribute that you actually can’t teach unless you play, and I’m not going to say football, but sports in general.

Golic: That people are still playing football. That it’s still the game, to a certain extent, the game that we loved back in the day. It’s obviously changed a little bit with the hitting and some of the rules.

O’Hara: It allows players to have fun. There’s times where you see things on social media where you say, “Wow, that’s great. That’s great you got to share that cause.” There’s so many great things that go on that were left uncovered or unsaid or people didn’t see (when I played).

Robinson: The competition. Love the competition. Love the soft skills that football teaches you. I played quarterback (for a while up until college). To be able to look every man in the eye and have them believe in you? That’s a skill. Stuff that you learn in the classroom and be able to go out there and perform it? That’s a skill. To be able take the philosophy from your coach and be able to pump it and inject it into a locker room? That’s a skill. That’s what I love most about this game.


What do you dislike about today’s game?

Wayne: It’s kinda leaning towards the flag football side. It’s getting a little softer, man. Even though I was a receiver and played on offense, I look at some of the calls today and I’m like, “That’s defenseless?” (The defense) is at a disadvantage. They really are. You don’t know how to hit a guy these days, you know what I mean? As a receiver, you’re like, “Thanks?” You look at a lot of these receivers now, they’ll probably play a long time, as long as they can take care of (their) body. It’s to the point now where I feel like a lot of these careers (of the receivers) will be extended.

Haynes: Some of the things I dislike are also some of the things I like, you know? The officiating, it’s not 100%. And I think that’s what makes the game also a good game. I hit you, and one guy calls it pass interference. Another guys says, “That’s football.” I’m talking the officials. So as a player, I have to figure out, “Which guy are you? What can I get away with? It’s not black and white.”

Bishop: There are bigger, stronger, faster athletes, but I just don’t think they’re disciplined. I don’t think they’re coached up. I just think it’s just a game of great athletes out there running around now, who really don’t study and care about the game. It’s all for the money. There was a passion there that I had, that most guys had in my era that just loved the game. They probably would have played for free. I probably would have. And today’s new millennial athlete, it just doesn’t work that way. They learn everything on video and everything else. It’s kind of like certain things you assume that they know, little nuances of the game, they really don’t know.

Golic: I hate the fact that nowadays, the collective bargaining agreement basically said you can only have so many days of full contact practices. And we went in for 3 ½ weeks and it was all, until people were falling down, we would go full pads, full contact all the time. Of course, that’s just bitterness and envy jumping out of me now.

The focus on controlling the violence. They tell you how to hit, where…