Chicago Bears board chairman George McCaskey sees good coming from the movie "Concussion," even if the NFL is portrayed in a controversial light.
The movie stars Will Smith in the role of forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu and focuses on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease that has been found in the brains of athletes with a history of repetitive head injuries.
"The important part I think, is that any attention on player health and safety is a good thing," McCaskey said Friday as the Bears prepared for Sunday's game against Minnesota. "The NFL's made changes in recent years, rules changes, research is being funded, we need to improve the science, we need to improve the equipment and we need to improve the rules, need to improve the rules enforcement. And we think that the changes that we're making in the NFL will filter down to all levels."
McCaskey said the NFL has made 39 safety-related rule changes in the last 10 years and it hasn't all been aimed at concussions.
"I think it would be a mistake to rely on any one aspect to improve safety," he said. "I think equipment is part of it. I think rules, and rules enforcement is part of it. I think coaching is a big part of it, especially at the youth level."
McCaskey's son, Conor, suffered a concussion playing high school football and needed several months to recover. McCaskey maintained youth coaches in any sport must be more involved in safety.
"I remember telling someone that when my son was playing soccer, the head coach picked me out of a group and parents and said, 'You're my assistant coach,'" McCaskey said. "And I said, 'I don't know anything about soccer.' He said, 'that doesn't matter, I need someone to help me keep an eye on all these kids.'"
One of the players portrayed in the movie is former Bears safety Dave Duerson, who committed suicide. Duerson was found to suffer from CTE. The Duerson family has expressed disappointment at his portrayal in the movie on several fronts.
"Well, I'll leave that to the Duersons and the producers of the film," McCaskey said. "We need to do what we can for our former players across the board. We owe it to them."
A federal judge has approved a potential $1 billion plan to settle thousands of concussion lawsuits filed by former players and their families, including Duerson's. The deal has been appealed, with critics saying it protects some retirees more than others.
McCaskey said he's uncertain how many of his team's players will see the film, although he heard some discussing whether they would see it in the team lunch room.
Bears coach John Fox was asked whether he would see it.
"I don't know when I'll find time," he said. "If it hits Comcast or cable or something I might catch it."
Fox said players are all aware of the situation regarding CTE.
"Our players have been educated tremendously," he said. "I don't know that a movie is going to help them that much, other than the story line. I think our guys are very well educated already."