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Big Fines Won’t Reduce Big NFL Hits

Posted By Steven Keys On Oct 20 2010 @ 11:55 am In NFL | No Comments

There’s nothing new about a player losing his helmet in a football game.  It’s actually kinda’ cool…as long as the guy can get up and walk away.

Wicked, jarring hits have been separating players from their equipment since leather helmets and high-tops were in style.

But something strange is happening in NFL 2010, something more peculiar than the disappearance of hanging mouth-guards or the arrival of glove-wear: player helmets are popping off after some of the simplest tackles.

If a break-away (lighter?) helmet is part of some kind of new design intended to improve player safety, I’m hard-pressed to understand how.  Nothing could be more dangerous than exposing an unprotected cranium to football traffic.

I hate to think how much worse Aaron Rodgers’ concussion would’ve been in week five had his helmet popped-off as he was being crushed by 300 pound Redskin Jeremy Jarmon and his belly-flop tackle.

While NFL pros may have the coziest hands in all of sport (bare-handed Colt Dallas Clark is a rare throwback), the owners & players union have yet to figure-out how best to protect the most important part of an athlete’s body: the head.

Last years rash of concussions led the NFL to ask its helmet providers (Riddell / Schutt / Xenith withdrew in protest) to participate in safety tests as part of its on-going Helmet Concussion Assessment Program (HCAP).  Apparently, the head-gear passed with flying colors (3 / 2010).

But the current hue & cry is not over flying helmets nor the recent surge in concussions.  Instead, it calls on Roger Goodell to lay down tougher penalties for vicious hits.  Ask a wrongdoer if he considered the penalty before committing his deed and he’ll just laugh.

There was a time when cheap play was acceptable.  Names like Jack Tatum and Fred “The Hammer“ Williamson were proponents of the style.  Former Colt / Jet Johnny Sample and his 1970 best seller Confessions of a Dirty Ball-player reflected the rebellious mood.

If we’re truly serious about improving player safety (and post-career health) the answer won’t be found in stiffer fines nor suspensions.  The best motivator in preventing overly-dangerous, on-field behavior may be that no one in 2010 wants to be the next dirty ball-player.

For decades, players have responded well to rational, clearly-defined rule changes (chop blocks / spearing).  Pointed instruction, peer pressure and well designed equipment are the keys to ensuring a football game that averts tragedy while never sacrificing keen competition.

Keys to Sport

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