If anything, the game has become more brutal since the first Super Bowl 46 years ago. The players are bigger and faster, and better equipment gives them the false confidence to go head-to-head with each other.
No sport worth playing should need neurologists on the sidelines to protect participants. But that's precisely what the NFL will have next year as it belatedly tries to contain the fallout from the concussion issue.
Count former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison among those who worry. He was fined repeatedly in his long career for helmet-to-helmet hits, and estimates he suffered 20 concussions on the field. Today he works as a television analyst and seems healthy, but said on the "Costas Tonight" Super Bowl special that he gets headaches from bright lights and playing golf and has some anxiety issues he believes were caused by concussions.
"I'm scared to death," he said. "I have four kids, I have a beautiful wife, and I'm scared to death what may happen to me 10, 15 years from now."
The issue was big this week as members of the 49ers and Ravens were asked repeatedly about the safety of the game they make their living from. Most players dismissed fears about their safety, saying they knew what they were in for when they signed up to play football. But, at the same time, the players' union released a survey showing eight out of 10 players don't trust team doctors.
Understandable, when they serve at the pleasure of their employers. Even more understandable if you play in San Diego, where the team doctor lost a malpractice lawsuit last summer and the Medical Board of California wants to revoke his medical license.
These are all serious issues that deserve serious attention. The game will never be totally safe, but it can be safer.
Enjoy the Super Bowl. Celebrate the unofficial national holiday.
And hope that Goodell is as serious as he claims in finding a way to keep players safer than they are today.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg