The NFL rule on helmet to helmet hits states, “using any part of a players helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/hairline parts) or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily; although such violent or unnecessary use of the helmet is impermissible against any opponent, game officials will give special attention in administering this rule to protect those players who are in virtually defenseless postures.” After a seemingly devastating weekend for big hits that left four players with concussions and one college player paralyzed from the neck down, the NFL is looking for ways to protect their players even more.
The Steelers James Harrison received a $75,000 fine and Brandon Meriweather of the Patriots and the Falcons Dunta Robinson both received a $50,000 fine for their hits this past weekend. Which of these hits should are considered dirty and which looked to be good hits? Well, that depends on who you talk to. Personally, the Meriweather hit is the only one to me that seemed to be intentionally aimed to hurt someone by launching his helmet into Todd Heaps. With the other hits, the players led with their arms and shoulder to make the hit with what looked like no intent to harm. Of course, depending on who you talk to and what team they are a fan of, their view point will be different, but I will offer my opinion on how to protect the players and how to justify what is a punishable hit and what isn’t.
First, the media is overreacting to what took place this past weekend because the NFL is not changing the way the players play the game. The NFL said that they can start suspending players for helmet to helmet hits. I have heard everything from having the players play without facemasks to wearing leather helmets. Football is a violent game and the players know what they signed up and the risks involved. Does that mean that we don’t protect them? Not at all, but it also doesn’t meant that the landscape of the game should get changed. On a local sports radio show, there was a Police Officer that called in and compared it to his job. He said when taking the job, he knew the risk that there was a chance of being in harms way. He knew that even with going out a bulletproof vest and a finely tuned car, that something can still happen to him. The same can be said with NFL players and the way the league looks after them. The players have the proper pads and high tech helmets and there are a list of rules that say what can and what can’t be done, but that doesn’t mean that injuries won’t still occur.
If the league is worried about protecting the players, then why the talks of the 18 game schedule? Won’t that lead to more chances of injuries? Yes, but it leads to a bigger paycheck as well. Are they concerned about the health of the players or are they concerned about the litigations coming their way in 20 years when the players sue the league? Lets not make the players sound like saints either because if enough money was being offered to them, we can’t act like they wouldn’t be on board for the extra games. With players being bigger and faster today, it only causes for bigger hits and bigger collisions, so how about in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, implement having the players give a blood test frequently to cut out the supplements being used? The argument has been used also to get better helmets for the players, but better helmets don’t stop the concussions. According to numerous doctor’s studies, concussions happen when the player gets hit and he stops, but his brain is still moving around hitting off of his skull. Unless you can insert padding inside of the skull, then the additional padding in the helmets are of no use.
If the players start to get afraid to hit each other, that may only result in more injuries since they are going against the techniques they have learned since they were in Pee-Wee leagues. The highlight hits are the ones that get the publicity but what about the continuous helmet to helmet hits at the line of scrimmage which research shows are the main cause for post career problems. Defensive players have also said they want the protection from players such as Running Back Peyton Hillis or Hines Ward delivering the blows on them. The only thing is that the Defensive players aren’t defenseless and are the ones altering their bodies to make the tackles. I wonder how an agent who has, for example, Desean Jackson as a client as well as Dunta Robinson goes about handling this situation. He tells Jackson that he will fight to make sure he is protected but then tells Robinson that the fine wasn’t justified?
The NFL needs to keep things the way that they are right now. The players will continue to play the same way and continue to pay the fines, while a few will be made an example of with a suspension. The best solution I can come up with is to change the appeal process. The way it is set up now is that Commissioner Roger Goodell is the one who levies the punishment out and if a player wants to appeal it, they go back to Goodell with it. The league should set up an appeal committee comprised of former players and officials to review the hits in question and come up with a proper punishment. The NFL has it right and within a few weeks, all the hype will be over with.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com