NFL's New 'Devastating Hit' Policy Reeks of Hypocrisy and Laziness

Matt ShervingtonCorrespondent IIOctober 19, 2010

Over the course of the 14 games which occurred during the National Football League’s Week 7 games there were seemingly several more “helmet to helmet” hits than in the past.

Moreover—and the deservingly the biggest deal for most football fans—the injuries that resulted from said hits have caused an uproar at several levels including the fans, the media and the league itself.

Such a big topic of discussion the hits themselves resulted in several pre-game, half time and postgame segments from NFL on NBC studio analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison.

The most noticeable comments stemming from these segments were those of Rodney Harrison who stated that fining players is inconsequential to them. Instead Harrison purported that being suspended for a game is the only way to send a message home to these players.

Well sorry Rodney. I may not have played 14 seasons in the National Football League but I have a problem with your stance. My opposition is further heightened by the fact that your stance comes off as incredibly hypocritical.

Ignoring the hypocrisy of the statement, however, I would like to point out that this proposed “solution” of suspensions solves nothing. In fact, all it will do is eventually create leeway for more criticism of the league for a lack of consistency.

Allow me to further explain my stance.

Roger Goodell has been crucial towards creating a safer environment for the players. This is an excellent act and something that the union has been fighting to get for years.

Unfortunately there still remains an inconsistency in reinforcement of rules for the sake of health on the behalf of the players. In somewhat of a catch 22 this same inconsistency has been brought about by Goodell’s sudden partial emphasis on health.

As alluded to earlier the media was in an uproar over the upper body hits – because only three of the hits were “helmet to helmet”—that they ignored many other violent plays that occurred yesterday.  This is an inconsistency in enforcing rules to promote health.

Yesterday there were several cut/chop block attempts as well as several peel back blocks n punt and kick returns. In fact, one such peel back block was given a highlight on the NFL’s very own network.

Such plays are just as likely to end up resulting in injury and yet there is no uproar about them currently.

Seahawks punter John Ryan left with just a pair of injured ribs; however, the violence of his collision could have easily resulted in a head and spinal cord injury.

Continuing this streak of inconsistency is the fact that on the offensive side of the ball players are still allowed to go low as long as the defender is not engaged with another offensive player. It is common place to find a skill position player such as a receiver, halfback or quarterback going below the waist when asked to make a block in the open field. Why is there no uproar here?

A third point in highlighting the inconsistency in enforcing rules to reinforce player health is what is allowable for skill position player to throw a block. Even with the enforcement of the “Hines Ward” rule an offensive skill position player can still throw themselves into a defender for a devastating block that is every bit as jarring as hitting a “defenseless receiver” as long as they remain at or below the shoulder line.

A fourth point is the current situation of allowing a quarterback to get hit.

If you were unaware of it prior to the start of the season you were made fully aware of it when New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator Greg Williams mentioned “Remember Me Shots.” The league saw nothing with Williams and his defenders admitting to wanting to inflict pain as they did not fine them or have them shut up.

Why was that?

There was no problem on the league’s behalf because every blitzing defender comes with the intent to hit the quarterback and cause them pain even if they don’t notch a sack. This doesn’t seem like it has positive intent yet there is no enforcing this here.

It is fine and dandy for a blitzing defender to hit the QB after the ball is out as long as it is not egregiously after the throw is released.

Finally, are we all failing to forget that these same people are attempting to lengthen the NFL season? That screams hypocrisy at its highest point.

These inconsistencies scream to me that the NFL is worried about player safety but this move is more so to their public image given the time in which Rodney Harrison delivered his opinion on this matter; Primetime with eight-plus million viewers watching.

However, looking at the present is only half the issue here. Perhaps we should take a look at what could—or should I say will given this rule is to be enforced starting Wednesday—happen in the future with the enforcement of this rule.

In theory, fining players is fine and dandy and does in fact send a message to them. Unfortunately, things that work in theory usually don’t make it past that stage.

During Weeks Five and Six there were a series of hits that did and did not receive flags which drew criticism. Some individuals felt that some hits deserved flags when they did not receive them and vice-versa. This happens because of the extreme subjectivity of what the NFL community have dubbed “Bang-Bang” plays.

These plays are called “Bang-Bang” because of how quickly they happen. Hard enough to track in this technological age with replay and DVR it becomes even harder to gauge such a play from 10 or 15 yards way in real time.

So if a flag is not thrown should a player be suspended? What if a flag is errantly thrown during the course of the play? Should that player later be suspended due to human error?

Furthermore, how do you determine the intent of a player when trying to deliver a hit?

How do you know when a player is intending to cause a little bit of pain to make a receiver question going over the middle and when they are merely trying to jar the ball loose? Should the latter attempt always result in suspension? If so then I merely ask how can you enforce this with consistency.

I have literally had a conversation with hundreds of people in regards to the hits that occurred on Sunday. Additionally we even talked about the hit that left Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers with a concussion the previous week.

Except for the Brandon Merriweather hit to Todd Heap at no point was there ever a general consensus that a hit was “dirty.”

On the other four hits on the day the view on each hit was split and the sad part is that the reality is that neither side can be “correct” due to the speed of the plays and not understanding the intent of the players. It is usually pretty hard to understand if a player was purposely intending to inflict pain and just knuckleheadedly not exhibiting form tackling.

Another aspect of controversy that will be ever-present with this rule change is how it well affect games and potentially post-season seeding.

If a guy who has been clean his entire career intends to hit a guy in the chest over the middle to jar the ball loose but momentum carries both players helmets into one another the former player will be suspended. What if that player is an All-Pro caliber player and is suddenly missed for a big game the next week? I am pretty sure that will cause controversy.

Now before you go off on a tangent and call me “heartless” or you insert some sort of other insult allow me to explain something to you. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I probably love the NFL more so than you do.

It is, quite honestly, the third most important thing in my life behind family and God. I live my life from Sunday to Sunday. As a result I realize that as much as I wish for the health of players it does not matter because injury is an occupational hazard.

I’m all for suspensions to players when appropriate. I was completely for it when Jets’ safety Eric Smith caused a facial fracture to Anquan Boldin in 2008. In fact, I felt that the one-game suspension was too light of a sentence in that instance. However, that is not the issue here.

The issue here is that NFL is taking a cheap and ineffective method towards solving this problem to prevent backlash from a rather large group of fans; those who are easily influenced by what the media—especially ex-players—tell them.

The league’s quick reaction and enforcement to this rule reeks of being lazy and even more so of hypocrisy.

There have been large strides in the evolution of the NFL helmet since 2002. In fact, there have been two noticeably large strides to the Riddell Revolution helmet over that span designed to prevent head and neck injuries up to 31 percent more than its predecessor.

The problem here, however, is that these strides were made long before concussions were a focal point of player health and safety. Yet the NFL has not made it mandatory for players to have these helmets, although the Revolution helmet is the league’s most popular helmet.

Rather than make guys wear Revolution helmets and then invest millions into Riddell’s efforts to further improve the Revolution helmet the NFL takes the “easy” way of singling out a group of players and remaining completely hypocritical to everyone else’s health needs.

To this I say for the first time since I was an ignorant child…“Boo you NFL."


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