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Former Service High School star concerned about player safety

By Dave Goldman Photojournalist: Dave Leval - 10:28 PM August 21, 2016
ANCHORAGE –

Mark Schlereth enjoyed a long, prosperous career in the National Football League (NFL). The two-time Pro Bowler — 1992 and 1999 — started in 140 games and was part of three Super Bowl Champion teams.

But like every player, he paid a physical price. In his 12-year career as an offensive lineman with the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos he became known for solid play and for surgeries: 29 in all—20 on his knees.

Fortunately, he escaped what can be a brutal means of making a living relatively healthy. Now retired, he speaks freely and with strong opinion on the issue of concussions, which has become a topic of concern in recent years. While the league is doing more to ensure player safety, he says further measures are needed.

There is now a concussion policy involving stricter guidelines and policing of players when they get “dinged.” If violated, it can cost teams $100,000. A loss of draft picks could follow in a second infraction. But it needs to go farther Schlereth says.

“Fining an organization worth $4 billion [only] $100,000 is like turning over your loose couch cushions and looking for loose change,” said the 1984 Service High School graduate. “It’s a start but not close to what it should be.”

This season, touchbacks will come out to the 25 yard line instead of the 20 to entice teams to take the extra five yards and minimize the bone jarring collisions that occur on kickoffs. Schlereth said he sees a failure waiting to happen.

“A couple of brain trusts over on Park Avenue in New York City put it together, thinking it would create a safer environment,” he said. “I think it will probably backfire on them.“

He thinks kickers will be instructed by their coaches to kick the ball a shorter distance to force the receiving team to return it.

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