NFL could be made safer with no helmets at all
From the article:
"One of the strongest arguments for banning helmets comes from the Australian Football League. While it's a similarly rough game, the AFL never added any of the body armor Americans wear. When comparing AFL research studies and official NFL injury reports, AFL players appear to get hurt more often on the whole with things like shoulder injuries and tweaked knees. But when it comes to head injuries, the helmeted NFL players are about 25% more likely to sustain one."
Sure, there would be a lot of limb injuries. And no, we wouldn't see as many of the big hits that we see today. But that's better than permanent brain damage... right?
I don't think it will happen, mostly because the NFL thrives on the huge hits and monster plays, and this would negatively affect that. However, it might also highlight the ridiculous athleticism, if the players were allowed to run without pads weighing them down. I think the game would become a lot more spread out and vertical.
It's an interesting idea, at the very least.