An estimated 110 million people will be watching this weekend's Super Bowl. But what they won't see is the battle being waged off the field over player safety.
A group of former football players and their families are suing the National Football League, accusing the $9.5 billion-a-year industry of covering up life-altering brain injuries. And one of the lead plaintiffs, who lives right here in Sioux Falls, believes the outcome could change the game.
For six years, Neil Graff played in the NFL as a quarterback. In that time, he took countless big hits. Now he's tackling one of the most talked about and controversial topics in the NFL: concussions. Graff is a part of a class-action lawsuit against the NFL.
"The allegations are the NFL, back in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, knew about the negative ramifications of concussions on the players and they didn't inform us," Graff said.
Graff says back then, if a player took a big hit, he usually got back in the game.
"We didn't really know what the implications were, but as you look back on my career, I can remember a number of times when I would have had concussion-like symptoms and I'm sure I did suffer concussions," Graff said.
Unlike other players, Graff hasn't experienced any health problems from those concussions, but wanted to be named as a plaintiff in the lawsuit to protect himself.
"Even though I might not be showing any negative implications right now, there's nothing to say that next year, five years or even 10 years from now I won't," Graff said.
Graff says the NFL has taken some measures to better protect players.
"But I don't think any of those are long-term measures to curtail concussions. They are kind of a band aid, so I'm not sure what the answer is, but something has to be done," Graff said.
Or else the NFL will be the one taking the big hit.
"Because I think it has negatively impacted the game from the NFL all the way down to pee-wee football," Graff said.
KELOLAND News asked Graff the same question a reporter asked President Obama last week about football, 'Would you let your son play?' Graff said he would because the game of football teaches a young person a lot about life in general: teamwork, camaraderie, setting goals and working as a team toward those goals.