Tarkenton takes issue with Colin Kaepernick, protests during the national anthem, and steroids, which he thinks are commonly used
The two biggest problems facing the NFL are the controversial player protests during the national anthem and illicit steroid use by players, or so says Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
‘How do you think these people are so much bigger today than they were in my generation?’ the 77-year-old Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants legend told USA Today in a wide-ranging interview about the modern NFL.
Tarkenton is not just concerned about fair play. He believes that steroid use makes the game more dangerous because larger, more athletic players have the potential to cause more damage to one another.
‘It makes players bigger, faster, stronger,’ said Tarkenton. ‘The collisions are more violent. … So therefore the damage is going to be more.
‘Your leaders in the league don’t want to talk about it,’ he added.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy responded to USA Today in an email.
Quarterback Fran Tarkenton (No. 10) of the Minnesota Vikings looks to pass against the Los Angeles Rams during an NFL football game circa 1973 at Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis
‘The NFL-NFLPA polices are the longest continuous and comprehensive policy in pro sports,” McCarthy wrote. ‘The program is independently administered by world-class experts and laboratories and violations are addressed quickly and consistently with a mandatory suspension from play.”
The NFL currently bans over 200 substances while conducting around 18,000 unannounced drug tests throughout the year.
Still, Tarkenton believes some players are suffering more in retirement because of the kinds of hits that occur when players use steroids.
‘I started seeing more of my teammates. … demented and that are living half a life, don’t know where they are,’ he said. ‘They’re in institutions and forgotten. And I see these bright, young kids out there, playing their hearts out, and it’s euphoric and they’re making huge money and, bam, I see a hit and I say, ‘Oh, God.’ And we’re in denial, absolute denial.’
Colin Kaepernick (right) became the first NFL player to protest inequality and police brutality against minorities in the 2016 preseason when he refused to stand for the national anthem
Tarkenton thinks that Tom Brady is ‘arguably’ the best quarterback ever, but thinks Los Angeles Chargers signal caller Philip Rivers would have been as good had he played in New England
Tarkenton never won a Super Bowl with the Giants or in his two separate stints with the Vikings, but he did retire in 1978 as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (47,003), touchdowns (342) and interceptions (266). Those records have since been broken, mostly by former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.
He was also known as one of football’s first scrambling quarterbacks, helping to create a style that would be adopted by the likes of Steve Young, Michael Vick, and Colin Kaepernick.
But despite their similarities on the field, Tarkenton does not care for the way Kaepernick has handled himself.
Kaepernick, a free agent since March, became the first NFL player to protest inequality and police brutality against minorities during the 2016 season when, as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, he began refusing to stand for the national anthem.
The protest caught on and many players have sat, knelt, and raised a fist during the anthem since then.
To Tarkenton, the peaceful protests are unforgiveable.
‘Do I think they should be able to demonstrate? I do,’ Tarkenton said. ‘But when they play the national anthem and that flag is up there, if we cannot respect that, what do we respect in America?’
According to Tarkenton, conservatives in America are being denied a voice.
Former NFL Quarterback Fran Tarkenton delivers a speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland
Tarkenton never won a Super Bowl with the Giants (left) or in his two separate stints with the Vikings (right), but he did retire in 1978 as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards (47,003), touchdowns (342) and interceptions (266)
Unlike Tarkenton, who never won a Super Bowl, Brady has five rings and four MVP awards
‘We’re silent because if you’re not a Democrat, progressive liberal and you disagree with the progressive liberal’s viewpoint, then you’re going to be spit at, hit, ridiculed and booed,’ he said. ‘So you know what we do? We don’t talk. We’re a silent majority.’
Expected to be released by the 49ers, Kaepernick opted out of his contract in March but has not been signed by another team, prompting him to file a lawsuit against all 32 NFL teams and owners accusing the league of colluding against him in retaliation for the protests.
The 30-year-old Kaepernick may have an argument.
Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino broke many of Tarkenton’s passing records
In six seasons, Kaepernick helped guide the 49ers to two NFC championship games and one Super Bowl while completing 59.8 percent of his passes and 72 touchdown passes. He also threw only 30 interceptions over that time, helping him to post a very respectable quarterback rating of 88.9.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and injured Green Bay Packers signal caller Aaron Rodgers have both stated they believe Kaepernick has the ability to continue starting in the NFL. Brady declined to say whether or not Kaepernick is being blackballed, but Rodgers told ESPN that the protests are likely the only reason he’s not in the NFL.
‘He has paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to bring true everyday issues to light,’ Kaepernick’s former collegiate teammate at Nevada and current Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews wrote on Instagram.
Tarkenton does not believe Kaepernick is being blackballed.
‘If they thought he could play, and their coaches thought (he) could play, he’d be on one of those 32 teams,’ Tarkenton said.
Tarkenton was also asked about the current state of the quarterback position.
In addition to saying that Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is as good as any ‘this generation has,’ he also admitted that Tom Brady is ‘arguably’ the best quarterback ever.
However, Tarkenton thinks Brady’s success has been helped by the presence of legendary coach Bill Belichick. Tarkenton even wonder if Rivers might actually be as good as Brady.
‘If he had been with Belichick, would he have been as good as Brady?’ Tarkenton said. ‘I don’t know, but he would have been great.’
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers could have been as Brady if he had gotten to play for a coach like New England’s Bill Belichick, Tarkenton explained