Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark has an instinct that’s been bred in him since he was probably tackling in middle school – lower the helmet. Many players currently in the NFL have been bred that way. Make yourself a missile and jar the ball loose from the receiver/ball carrier. And, in the process, make the receiver think twice about being in your zone. You can’t fault guys like Clark from continually lowering their helmet when they go to hit a guy. Part of it is instinct – when you’re about to face an impact with another object, what do you do? You lower your head. It’s that simple.
Unfortunately, the latest bouts of rule changing in the name of ‘player safety’ has just made it so darn difficult for defenders to …. well…. tackle. Period. We’ve seen it numerous times throughout many games. Guys miss tackles. They completely whiff because they freeze in a moment that used to be a no brainer (no pun intended). Now, defenders are thinking twice, and that’s impacting the outcomes of plays and eventually games. It’s causing defenders to reinvent the way they hit. If you can’t go high, then you go low. Rob Gronkowski became a testament to what happens when defenders go low this past Sunday. Expect that to continue for seasons to come. Unless something changes.
The hit on the Dolphins Thomas on Sunday at Heinz Field was a phantom helmet to helmet on a ‘defenseless’ player. There were two things with that call. One, Thomas was not defenseless. He was the ball carrier at the time and was well on his way making ‘football moves.’ Secondly, Clark didn’t hit Thomas in the helmet. Clark may have led with his own helmet, but he didn’t bang noggins with Thomas. This is the second time this season that Clark has been called for a phantom helmet to helmet hit. The refs are so worked up over what is a penalty and what is not, that they struggle to get the call right. Those penalties are non-reviewable, so if they miss the call there’s no going back. The refs are graded on each and every play, so Roger Goodell, the commish of the NFL, has these guys by the chestnuts.
In this way, the commish has done a great disservice to the consumer – you, the fan. Some fans are jacked at the new rules because ‘this isn’t football’ anymore. Other fans are jacked because refs can’t call a clean game anymore without a million different interpretations of what rule is applied when. And, other fans are jacked that this is all a farce – the league could care less about safety because while they live under that guise, they continue to rake in the dough. You can mark me down for the third type of fan.
This could all just go away if the commish and the rest of the NFL player safety boneheads would just do the two things they should have done from the onset. The first action would be to just admit that blows to the head over the period of a football career causes long term brain damage. Quit the B.S. Just have a nice little press conference and just say that all that scientific evidence that you’ve been trying to debunk with other bogus ‘science’ was right all along (kind of like evolution or global warming). Gee don’t you feel better already? Next, set up an account. And I’m not talking a minor $100 million dollar account – I’m talking a big one to the tune of $800 million to $1 billion. Sit that account off to the side and you give that money to each an every player that begins to show signs of having some sort of degenerative brain disease that your sport caused. That shows a ton of responsibility on your part, hell compassion even, and it keeps a few less guys from blowing their brains out (or a few other’s along the way).
It’s a win win win situation. You can remove the pointless rules of player safety and let these gladiators just beat the crap out of each other making the fan happy. You continue to rake in the dough, and you may even make MORE money by unabashedly selling that violence at every level. The icing on the cake is that most of your Hall of Fame inductees may just see their bust cast in bronze instead of their widows having to witness the unveiling. Would the commish, that smuggish Goodell ever admit that he was wrong? Probably not. But he’s got some pretty good PR guys kicking around that I’m sure could spin this thing so well that it makes Goody Goody look like a freakin’ saint from above placed on this earth to save football.
Let these guys play football. Let them kill each other out there. It will probably happen even without the ‘safety’ measures put in place over the last five years. Look at former New York Jet Dennis Byrd. He became partly paralyzed from his own guy back in the early 90′s, well before any of this safety nonsense. Anything can happen when you have men who are averaging over 220 lbs and muscle mass beyond your wildest dreams hitting other men of the same stature at about a force of 1600 lbs. Somethings got to give – either the rules go away, these guys play football, and someone might die because of it OR you keep the rules, alienate your fans (potentially ruining the game), and someone might die anyways.
You can’t have it both ways.