NFL Network featured Hall of Fame coach Don Shula on Tuesday as part of its "A Football Life" series.
Heading into that profile, the former Miami Dolphins coach told USA Today that head injuries were a concern while he was coaching. He said concussions didn't draw as much publicity, but they were just as scary to him.
"Football's a tough game," Shula told USA TODAY Sports while reflecting on the nature of the game he's loved for most of his 83 years while weighing the impact of the $765 million the NFL has agreed to pay former players coping with long-term mental and cognitive issues.
"There have been some unfortunate injuries, and the league is doing what it can to help out these players."
Shula did the same for the men he coached.
"You tried to be aware of everything that was going on," he continued. "... We did everything we could and learned from it to be better prepared in the future."
Shula said there's a lot in the documentary that will be new to fans.
He's particularly thrilled about the opportunity to share stories of his family. Shula gleefully recalls asking his first wife, Dorothy (she died in 1991), to backpedal on a beach while she was pregnant to assess her athletic ability. How else would a father/coach garner an early assessment of his unborn children's abilities?
As for the key to longevity in a meat grinder of a profession from a man who once nearly opted for the priesthood instead?
"You've got to win early and often," said Shula, who had just two losing seasons. "Then you've got a chance to stay around."
-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor