NFL games regularly feature plenty of phenomenal plays. This past week, there were three plays, violent hits to be exact, that made national headlines because they resulted in players on the receiving end of the hit being diagnosed with a concussion. The NFL has made a well-publicized effort to educate teams about concussions and to stop helmet-to-helmet or any other types hits which will lead to a concussion. Protection of “defenseless receivers,” and not just quarterbacks, is now a priority.
Despite this effort, Steelers OLB James Harrison was fined $75,000 for a hit on Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi, partially because Harrison is a repeat offender of helmet-to-helmet hits against receivers. Harrison, the only player with a 100-yard “Pick 6” in a Super Bowl, was so upset over the fine that he momentarily contemplated retiring. Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that KDKA in Pittsburgh revealed that the NFL was selling pictures of Harrison’s hit on their web site, while punishing Harrison. A bit hypocritical? After a review of their site, the NFL removed the picture and will likely now thoroughly review each image prior to placing it for sale.
Falcons CB Dunta Robinson and Eagles WR DeSean Jackson were both diagnosed with concussions and are out of at least one game after Robinson inflicted a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jackson. Robinson was fined $50,000 for hitting a defenseless receiver.
The worst hit of the three by far was Patriots S Brandon Meriweather’s ferocious hit on Ravens TE Todd Heap. I know Meriweather says the hit was not intentional, but, it surely did look intentional to me. Meriweather seemed to pause, then leap into Heap, even though his Pats teammate already hit Heap. Meriweather was fined $50,000 and has apologized.
The problem is that defensive pro football players are taught to make the play, by any means necessary. You can believe that if a player repeatedly misses a tackle or allows a receiver to score on him, that player will be benched and/or cut. Defensive players don’t set out to intentionally hurt their opponent, but, they believe a sense of fear must be instilled across the middle of the field. Thus, because players are bigger, faster and stronger than even a decade ago, the play is faster and the hits are more violent. So, these recent developments bring up a discussion as to how defensive players continue doing their job to the best of their ability without drawing a flag or being fined/suspended for doing their job? I certainly don’t have the answer and an answer will not come to the forefront anytime soon. But the discussion must continue in earnest. This discussion will certainly take center stage in the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, so, stay tuned.
I must admit that several years ago I used to watch ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown show solely because of Michael Irvin and Tom Jackson’s “Jacked Up” segment. The draw - a copulation of spectacular bone-crushing hits. If I remember correctly, the featured hits didn’t glamorize serious injuries, just great hits. As a fan, I loved seeing these hits, as long as no one was hurt. I’m sure I’m not alone.
The NFL is known for great hits. If you take that away, the NFL will be left with a purely offensive game, which is fine if it’s your team that ends up on the winning side of a shoot-out. Let’s be clear, I am in no way advocating play which deliberately injures any player. I just want to maintain a good offensive and defensive balance which leads to a good game. If you have any ideas or general comments on this topic, please drop by the Football area of BellaOnline Forums so we can post thoughts and maybe help the NFL and its players develop a resolution to this problem.