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For Some Players, NFL Season Off To A Suspended Start

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Thursday was the NFL's opening night. So let's talk football. A Martinez is the co-host of TAKE TWO on member station KPCC and joins us now. A, Seattle beat Green Bay 36 to 16. The Seahawks sure look like Super Bowl champions. What did you think of opening night?

A MARTINEZ, BYLINE: They looked exactly as good as they were last year and maybe even a little bit better. That defense is exactly the same. They really limited a very high-powered offense of the Green Bay Packers to not much. And Aaron Rodgers, the Packers' quarterback, really only had half the field to work with. That was good, and then the other part of it that should scare, Arun, the rest of the NFL is that Seattle's offense looked a lot better than last year's offense that won the Super Bowl. So, there's ever a chance for a team to be back-to-back Super Bowl champions first time in 10 years - if the Seattle Seahawks can do it, this might be the time.

RATH: Now the Packers and the Seahawks had all their players on the field, but that's actually not the case for other teams this year. Right from the get-go, the season starts off with a lot of suspensions. Of course, Ray Rice from the Ravens was suspended for only two games after allegedly knocking out his then fiancée. The NFL got a lot of flack for that. How have they been responding?

MARTINEZ: Well, Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL who typically doesn't admit any mistakes, admitted that he made a mistake when he ruled on Ray Rice. And it wasn't so much the criticism from outside the NFL as much as other owners and people that are close to him, taking him aside basically and saying look, you know, you might've made a bad decision here. And the NFL, Arun, is a league that really doesn't have to answer to anyone. So for him to make the changes that he did and they were significant changes - six games for a first offense, possible lifetime ban for a second offense - for him to actually go back and say look, I messed up, I needed to change this, is a big step for Roger Goodell. And maybe a big way for the league to maybe repair its image with women because women play a big part of the NFL's fan base. And I think women maybe might come back to the league in a big way.

RATH: Well, I think also, you know, even with what's been said recently, I think a lot of fans might still think there's still a long ways to go.

MARTINEZ: Oh sure there is. Ray Rice who - boy, that video is pretty damning evidence - he gets only two games and someone smokes pot and get six games. You would think that the importance of domestic abuse wouldn't rank very high. And the NFL did draw a line in the sand until they finally saw the error in their ways.

RATH: Finally, this week on KPCC's TAKE TWO, your program, you interviewed Steve Almond, who's author of the new book "Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto." Let's hear a clip from that interview.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE ALMOND: It is the most suspenseful game we have. It's strategically dense and when we watch pro-players or college player, we're watching greatness. Unfortunately, part of their excellence involves inflicting and silently absorbing a tremendous amount of punishment. And what they're finding is that it's not the big catastrophic hits that are so dangerous, but the slow buildup of these sub-concussive hits that happen hundreds and thousands of times over the course of the season at every level of the game - Pop Warner High School, College, Pro. And that's the ethical rub.

RATH: You know, I've got to say as a huge football fan myself, he kind of draws into focus a lot of what's been on my mind in recent seasons. A, if Steve Almond is right, can football as we know it go on like this?

MARTINEZ: Well, yeah, it can. The American interest in football - the American sports fan interest in - especially in collision sports and violence, I don't know if that will ever die down. I think look at the UFC, Mixed Martial Arts, they're as popular as they've ever been. So one way or another, I think the American sports fan is going to get their appetite filled with violence in sports. It's just kind of who we are as an American sports culture.

RATH: A Martinez, co-host of TAKE TWO on member station KPCC. A, always a pleasure speaking with you. Thanks.

MARTINEZ: Thanks, Arun. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.