Peter Berg films HBO documentary on NFL's push to change culture

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

Peter Berg, the executive producer of HBO's "State of Play" documentary series, has begun to examine the NFL's approach to player safety in his latest film "Culture Shock."

This will be the second part of the HBO series, examining the NFL's changing approach to player health and safety. Berg was given unprecdented access to NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell as he tries to chronicle the league's efforts to make the game safer.

"Culture Shock" has yet to receive an air date.

"I think the NFL is very concerned," Berg said. "... I'm very apologetic when I say it, but I believe Roger Goodell is a good guy. Some people take offense, but I really do.

"I think they have a real complicated problem. The sport is getting very hard for them to contain. It's like that Sammy Hagar song, 'I Can't Drive 55.' They're trying to slow the speed limit down (in the NFL). ... The NFL is trying to figure out how to slow the game back down again and make it safer."

Berg said his theory is that the NFL has got to find a way to stop head-on-head contact.

Berg, who has become involved USA Football's Heads Up Football program, took a greater interest in football safety issues after seeing a 15-year-old player become paralyzed -- and later died -- during the filming of the movie "Friday Night Lights."

"That kind of opened my eyes," Berg said. "I started realizing that nobody at the youth level is really teaching these kids how to tackle with their head up.

"So many of these kids are learning complicated patterns and complicated defenses, but they're not really learning how to tackle."

The first part of the HBO series, "State of Play: Trophy Kids," premiered Dec. 4. It featured four parents and five children competing in golf, tennis, high school basketball and football. The documentary looked at the parents' relentless role in in driving their kids to great.

"These parents are obviously very extreme," said Berg, who also is an acclaimed actor and director. "We were surprised they let us film some of this. They didn't even realize who they had become and how out of control they had been.

"When I saw the footage, I said, 'Wow, this is crazy and thank God I'm not like that.' But then I kind of started thinking I have a 14-year-old son who plays football. ... Although I don't go there, there are times that I have been frustrated and I have felt the challenge that I think so many parents have trying to know when to push, when to not push."

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