CNN sports reporter Coy Wire, a former Atlanta Falcon player, is hosting an hour-long special Sunday focused on how the NFL is attempting to reduce head trauma and other injuries as part of Anderson Cooper’s ‘Whole Story” brand.
Wire, now 44, spent nine years in the NFL getting banged up as a linebacker and safety over 127 games, including three years with the Falcons. He worries about his own health as he gets older, so this special has personal meaning.
“I feel the effects of the game every day when I wake up and something hurts,” he said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday. “I can never forget how dangerous this sport can be. I have a titanium plate and four screws in my neck from a football injury.”
This is Wire’s first hour-long special on CNN. It is set to air at 8 p.m. Sunday and will be available on demand on CNN.com for paid cable subscribers. Since 2015, Wire has been an Atlanta-based sports correspondent for CNN, CNNI and HLN, which disbanded its news operation at the end of last year.
For the special, he spoke with NFL coaches Andy Reid and Sean McDermott, XFL co-owners Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia, and Jeff Miller, who oversees player health and safety for the NFL. Wire goes behind the scenes at the 2023 training camps of the New York Giants and the Falcons and spent time at both the 2023 NFL Draft and the XFL Championship Game.
He also visited Biocore Research Lab, which is helping the NFL figure out ways to prevent injuries by using cameras and technology to anticipate when a player’s body is prone to, say, a hamstring pull or ankle injury. “They believe some day they can predict injuries before they happen,” Wire said.
Wire also noticed how much better NFL helmets are now than they were just 13 years ago when he played. “The helmet I used is banned today,” he said, because it isn’t as good at minimizing blunt force trauma to the head.
The good news, he said, is the hundreds of millions of dollars the NFL has invested in recent years to make the game safer “has had a trickle down effect. We’re seeing concussion protocols in all 50 states at the high school level. Rules and regulations passed by the NFL move down to colleges and high schools.”
And the NFL is even considering taking cues from the XFL, a minor league football league the Rock runs with Garcia, including possible changes to the kickoff that have been shown to reduce serious injuries, Wire said.
Wire said the game is by its very nature is a violent sport, “a brutal sport,” and the NFL will never be able to make it as safe as, say, tennis or baseball. At the same time, he doesn’t feel the changes have fundamentally diluted the game.
“I challenge anyone who says the game has become too soft,” he said. “You try to go out for one series and not make it out without limping off the field.”
But he said it behooves the NFL to invest in safety technology for the future health of the sport and the billions it makes in profits. NFL games remain a massive draw. Of the top 100 broadcast and cable TV programs last year, 82 were NFL telecasts, according to Nielsen.
“Players are not just replaceable pieces of meat,” Wire said. “These are human beings with lives and families. This really shines through in this documentary that shows the culture is shifting in America’s most popular sport. The players have more agency and are taking their health into their own hands.”
IF YOU WATCH
“The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper” features “Hard Hits: Can Football Be Safe?” with Coy Wire, 8 p.m. Sundays on CNN and available on demand CNN.com for cable subscribers.
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.