Only 209 days until the next NFL game that matters. That means 209 days to set a course that will determine whether professional football remains the potentate of US sports or backslides.
Vastly greater awareness of health hazards for players has pushed football into a dangerous crossroads. A misstep in either direction - or standing still - could damage its own health.
President Barack Obama became the voice of a segment by acknowledging hesitancy to allow a theoretical son - he has two daughters - to take up the game. Others, including current players, have expressed similar concerns about exposing them to the risks, and a mentality that rewards vicious hits.
Then there is the (old) school of thought, that a cascade of penalty flags and player fines for excessive roughness has put football on the path to Wimpville.
Their sentiments were crystallised by Super Bowl participants Vernon Davis, who said that the NFL could evolve into flag football, and Bernard Pollard, who warned fans might grow so fed up with safety measures that the league would be extinct in 30 years.
Sympathies for Roger Goodell, the commissioner, who must aim to satisfy those with a spectrum of viewpoints.
The process, though demanding urgency, will not end by opening day.
Or even by the next Super Bowl, at which time Goodell can switch his investigators from the power failure in New Orleans to ferreting out what fool decided to stage Super Bowl XLVIII at a New York area outdoor stadium in freezing weather. Oh, wait. That was Goodell.
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