I have been asked several times the last few days how I feel about some of the hard hits in the NFL (and college) that happened over the weekend. And, honestly I have mixed feelings about it.
First let me say that my well wishes go out to Rutgers player Eric LeGrand and his family. I hate to see someone get hurt, especially when it is as life altering as being paralyzed from the neck down.
Before I proceed with my opinion about fines and possible suspension let me state again that I HATE to see players at any level get hurt on the field.
I have given the whole concussion concern in the NFL a lot of thought this year, mostly because I spent a month and a half this summer recovering from a serious concussion. (No I’m not trying to compare my concussion to those that football players receive as there is no way for me to do that until I have the opportunity to play at that level and get hit like they do.) It amazes me that players come back as soon as they do after a concussion, especially since I know how out of it I was, how bad I felt, and how hard it was for me to think straight for weeks on end after my concussion. I didn’t feel “normal” for 6 weeks and I didn’t have to come back to the fast pace of a game and make split second decisions that impact my team, fans, community, and ffb managers all over the world.
Having been through a concussion myself I would love to find a way for the game to be played so that no one is hurt like that or worse paralyzed! However, I’m not so sure that fines and suspension are the answer. The NFL handed out $175,000.00 worth of fines to three players today and is informing teams as of tomorrow that suspensions will be handed out in the future for vicious hits. I can’t say I’m totally on board with this strategy.
I would be all for fines and suspensions if I thought the hits were intentional and the players making the hits are purposely trying to seriously hurt people, but I just don’t think that is the case. I think the days of purposely “head hunting” or trying to “take people out” are/have been pretty much over in the NFL. For one if you are blatant about it you get penalized during the game, there are already fines handed out for “dirty” hits, and no one wants to risk hurting themselves so badly while purposely trying to hurt another player that they will miss games due to injury.
By nature football is a violent sport. You have 22 grown men on the field and their job is to tackle each other and stop each other from scoring. 22 full grown men running at each other as fast as they can with the intent to tackle each other to the ground…yep injuries are going to happen, but that does not mean the tackles are “dirty”.
The pace of the game is so fast, plays happen so quickly and opposing players shift and move so fast that some hits can’t be controlled at all. I see it time and time again…a player commits to a course of action and the person they are trying to tackle shifts or moves and all of a sudden you are missing the tackle completely or grabbing a shoe string when you were actually going for a tackle around the waste, or you aim for the chest/waist and they lower their head and now it is head to head.
Are there acceptations…absolutely! There are some players that get pissed off or don’t like someone and they want to make them hurt, and there are some long-standing nasty rivalries out there, and in those games they really do want to hurt each other and they put a little extra on each hit. In those rare cases fines and/or suspensions may be appropriate. But the true “dirty” player and/or “dirty” hits are few and far between in my opinion.
I will be the first to admit I like dirty, hard-hitting, grind it in the dirt football! I grew up on it and love it and would be sad to see that style of football fade away…so yes my opinion may be clouded by that. There has to be a way to balance letting the guys play and making sure it is as safe as possible. I just don’t want to see so many rules and penalties that guys are not able to, or are too scared to make plays for fear of losing money or being suspended.