HOOVER, Ala. — Arkansas coach Bret Bielema cracked plenty of jokes during his run through Southeastern Conference Media Days.
But Bielema wasn't looking for laughs when he was asked about player safety Wednesday.
Bielema, when told Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's intial reaction after hearing others claim no-huddle offenses were dangerous for players was a joke, delivered a passionate rebuttal of what he deemed "normal American football" in the main interview room of the Wynfrey Hotel. Below is the full response:
“I’m not a comedian. Everything I say is things I truly believe in. When I go into a young man's home, when you go to recruit a kid that's 17 years old, move him halfway across the country, you can look a mom and dad in the eye, and you say, I'm going to look out for the personal well-being of your son in everything that I do. It's going to be a game day, a practice, a conditioning session, I am trusting you to give me your son to come play for me. If I have a son that I have brought to this campus and I don't look after his personal well-being, I have lied to that parent. All I know is this: there are times when an offensive player and a defensive player are on the field for an extended amount of time without a break. You cannot tell me that a player after play five is the same player that he is after play 15. If that exposes him to a risk of injury, then that's my fault. I can't do anything about it because the rules do not allow me to substitute a player in whether I'm on offense or defense. The problem that people have is you look at it just from an offensive or defensive point of view. I'm looking at it from a head coach's point of view, that the personal well-being and safety of my players is paramount. I've had a situation that I've had to call a parent because their son may not make it through because of either an injury, not make it through life, but the next day, whether he can play football or not. To me that's real. That's the job I have to protect. I sat in a Rules Committee meeting. We changed the rules significantly in the world of kicking. Everybody remember when we did that? We moved the ball from the 35 to 30, all that back and forth. We changed the rules you can't jump anymore. Why did we do that? We did it for player safety. We've dramatically decreased the number of concussions and traumatic injuries on kickoffs because of that rule change. If we can have the same effect and change the amount of injuries to an offensive and defensive player and play the game still, would that not be a good resolution? It's not a joke to me. It's something that I really feel strongly about. It's not rhetoric. I'm not a scientist. You do not want me to walk in with a computer and try to figure things out. But I had a guy email me two weeks ago because he read the articles. He was all about there is statistical evidence that shows that as players become more tired, they become more vulnerable to injury. That's all I'm talking about. If you want to play hurry-up offense, play it. I'll play you, I don't care. But it doesn't mean that I cannot try to protect my players offensively and defensively. I have just as many offensive players as I have defensive players. That's the facts.”