It is time to start imagining America without the NFL.
America without the NFL? That's like America without apple pie.
No, the nation's most popular and profitable sports league won't be folding anytime soon. With more London games scheduled and the distinct possibility of a team resurfacing in the country's second-most populated city, Los Angeles, technically, its brand is expanding.
But Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard—public enemy No. 1 in New England, the guy who ended Tom Brady's 2008 regular season in the first quarter of the first game and rolled up on Rob Gronkowski's ankle in last year's AFC title game—thinks league extinction is imminent.
"Thirty years from now, I don't think it will be in existence," Pollard said to CBS Sports' Clark Judge.
Not at all.
The devastating defender's poignant opinion has its roots in what has become a common and rather critical player response to the league's heightened on-field safety regulations, increased personal-foul penalties and subsequent fines.
"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 said.
At its current rate, the NFL has an expiration date—probably not 2043, but it exists.
Evolution won't stop.
Players will get bigger, faster and stronger. In turn, the game will become even more of a modern-day war zone—a place in which the human body will be put at a much greater safety risk than today.
This comes as pure speculation from someone with absolutely no medical background—we're just scratching the surface regarding what is known about the long-term negative effects football violence has on players, especially their brains.
How many more retired players with unimaginably bad quality of life will have to be profiled before there's a significant anti-football movement in America?
The lawsuits won't stop either.
They'll force the NFL, a league that has used violence as a primary selling point for decades, to drastically alter how the game is played.
In theory, though, there will always be young men willing to put their bodies on the line for momentary fame and immense wealth.
Does the money and popularity outweigh everything else?
More intelligent heads should eventually prevail. Soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, tennis and golf are much safer athletic professions with far less inherent health risks. If they don't, and our society's insatiable desire for violence rages on, won't the league's extreme and almost desperate safety campaign push players away?
That's the ultimate conundrum that looms for the NFL—make a super violent sport, well, not violent, while keeping players interested and fans entertained.
At its foundation, Pollard's sentiment is correct. However, for as maddening as defenseless receiver flags can be, it's actually quite hard envisioning a time when enough fans choosing not to watch due to the softness of the game will cause the league to fold.
It's too big to fail.
Wait, we've heard that before, haven't we?