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While CTE is a possibility, Cardinals keep focus elsewhere

Arizona Cardinals defensive linemen Ed Stinson (91) and Pasoni Tasini (65) run drills as Rodney Gunter (95) and defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, left, look on during an NFL football training camp Monday, July 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A New York Times story came out Tuesday morning reaffirming the damage playing football can cause to a player’s brain.

The study took a look at the brains of 111 deceased football players with the youngest having passed away at 23 and the oldest at 89. Of the 111, a staggering 110 showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy disorder, which comes via repeated blows to the head.

CTE causes myriad symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, depression and dementia. The problems can arise years after the blows to the head have stopped.

More and more research is being done to try and make the game not only safer, but something that does not necessarily ruin lives once careers are over.

“Yeah, I think it’s something that needs to be ongoing in all sports, not just football,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “I don’t think they should be specific. When you think of hockey and the collisions — all sports, everybody should be doing all the research they can in that area to make the game safe.”

Everyone would be fine with that.

Entering his 12th NFL season and with at least one football-related concussion in his past, Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea said CTE is of course something he thinks about.

“You think about your future, you think about your family, you think about how it’s going to effect you after football,” he said. “But at the end of the day, you kind of have that knowledge of this could be a possibility.

“But other than that you pray; you pray for good health and just hope it doesn’t hit you hard.”

And that’s just it. Even if players do think about it — and in a way, how could you not — the truth is there is not really all that much to be done from their perspective.

“If I thought about that too much I wouldn’t be playing this game,” receiver Brittan Golden said. “I knew what I signed up for when I started playing it, so as far as that, if it happens it happens, but try to take the natural precautions, I guess.”

“I don’t think about it much,” QB Carson Palmer, who missed a game last season due to a concussion, said. “You hear about it a lot; it’s obviously out there.

“But I’ve been very fortunate to not have a ton of those issues.”

While saying those final 13 words Palmer knocked on the podium, illustrating the belief that luck plays a role. The QB noted how if he’s worried about taking hits he will be unable to focus on playing his position while Bethea said thinking of it probably means it’s time to leave the game.

Their respective mindsets, which are shared by others, further underscore the out of sight, out of mind nature of injury.

With CTE impacting players after they have walked away from the game, it likely is very low on the list of ailments that concern them.

Bethea noted how CTE impacts people differently — and sometimes not at all — so even though football will take a toll on his body, there is no way to necessarily know what, if anything, will befall him.

Besides, as Golden said, most of today’s players grew up watching football when safety was less of a focus, with big hits often being the focus on highlight shows.

The fourth-year pro admits he’d rather not be the guy who is on the receiving end of the big hit, that he could be is not a surprise.

“Initially, when everybody in this room started playing football people were getting crushed,” he said. “So everybody knows what they signed up for.”

That’s not to say players don’t appreciate the league’s efforts to try and make their lives a bit better. On Friday, media was privy to a video presented to the league’s players outlying rule changes, many of which involve certain hits now being illegal. Other changes, such as what defenders are allowed to do on field goal and PAT attempts, were explained as being made due to safety, as well.

While players may appreciate what the league has tried to do to combat the issues it faces, the unwritten contract between the league’s athletes and the sport itself states that every time you step onto the field, there is a chance for injury or irreparable damage.

Everyone signed it.

“At the end of the day it’s football, it’s football,” Bethea said. “There’s not really too many things you can really do to keep the integrity of the game.

“We know what’s in harm’s way. As for the NFL, they have done some things as far as safety, try to stay away from that, and I think they’re doing a pretty decent job as far as the research of trying to find out what they can do to help if you’re diagnosed, so until then we’ll just keep getting research done and as players try to be as safe as we possibly can be. And like I said, the biggest thing, just pray.”

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