Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, one of the fiercest hitters in the game, said he thinks the NFL will not be in existence in 30 years and thinks a player may actually die on the field during a game.
"Thirty years from now, I don't think it will be in existence," Pollard said in an interview with CBS Sports' Clark Judge. "I could be wrong. It's just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going -- where they [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they're throwing flags and everything else -- there's going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it."
Pollard added, "Guys are getting fined, and they're talking about, 'Let's take away the strike zone' and 'Take the pads off' or 'Take the helmets off.' It's going to be a thing where fans aren't going to want to watch it anymore."
He said the NFL "is trying to move in the right direction" with player safety but, at the same time, coaches want "bigger, stronger and faster" players "year in and year out."
"And that means you're going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I'm waiting for ... and, Lord, I hope it doesn't happen ... is a guy dying on the field," Pollard said. "We've had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks."
"Like I said, I pray it never happens, but you've got guys who are 350 pounds running 4.5 and 4.4s, and these owners and coaches want scout-run blockers and linemen to move walls. At the same time, they tell you, 'Don't hit here, and don't hit there, or we'll take your money.' Like I said, I hope I'm wrong, but I just believe one day there's going to be a death that takes place on the field because of the direction we're going."
As Breitbart Sports reporter Michael Patrick Leahy, who has written extensively on football and brain injuries, wrote, Pollard knocked out New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley with a violent--and legal--head-to-head hit during the AFC title game. Pollard also was reportedly fined $15,250 for hitting Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker in the head.
Pollard insisted he was not a dirty player and that he was not going to change his style of play.
"It's not going to change the way I play," he said. "I've been taught to play one way my whole career, my whole life, and I've never been a malicious player. I play the game hard and physical, just the way our defense does. You can't play it any other way because it means you're thinking. And in a fast-paced game, you can't play that way."