In a wide-ranging profile of the incumbency of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for ESPN The Magazine, Don Van Natta Jr. revealed one of the polarizing leader’s darkest fears: a player dying on the field.

The related piece of the article reads:

Within the past year, Goodell has told friends privately that he believes if the game’s hard-knocks culture doesn’t change, it could happen again (Lions receiver Chuck Hughes died of a heart attack in a 1971 game). ‘He’s terrified of it,’ says a Hall of Fame player who speaks regularly with Goodell. ‘It wouldn’t just be a tragedy. It would be awfully bad for business.’

While the last sentence seems to imply that Goodell values profits over safety, many owners feel that Goodell is addressing the issue head-on.

New York Giants owner John Mara said, “Player safety is Roger’s No. 1 priority. It’s something, quite frankly, that he wants as part of his legacy as a commissioner.”

“Roger is the best qualified person that I know in this country to do something about player safety,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

Lawyers like Peter Ginsberg, who deals with Goodell on such issues, concurred with the owners. “Based on my experience, the commissioner … doesn’t view individual players as anything more than commodities for the business,” he is quoted as saying.