The NFL has made its reputation as a sports league for fans who want to see crazy catches, amazingly accurate quarterbacks and hard-hitting players on the defensive side of the ball.
It's one of the most thrilling parts of a game, watching (and sometimes envying) the heavy-hitters of the game.
Dropping their shoulder into the stomach of a running back, and sitting him down where he stands, that's a big-time play. Wrapping up the quarterback after an aggressive blitz is successful, and seeing the opposing offense get shut down? It can really fire up the fans.
Now though, the NFL is bringing its hammer down on too-hard hitters.
What exactly is a "too-hard hitter?"
Apparently, the league determines that since concussions have increased, and injuries of other kinds have also increased along with penalties for said hits, it was time to strengthen their stance on illegal or dangerous hits.
In almost any NFL game, a fan can expect to see a wide receiver running a slant across the middle, leaping up into the air for the catch, and getting speared by a defensive back running full blast into him as he comes back down to the ground.
That soon could be a highlight hit of the past.
The NFL announced recently that it will start levying higher fines and suspensions for these dangerous hits for the sake of player safety.
Some say, "Why not just play two-hand touch football then?"
I can see the merit in that argument, but I'd counter with this next point. The early levels of football (at least when I played on defense) encouraged hitting hard, but hitting and wrapping up the ball carrier in that same motion.
That's pretty difficult to do, when you're throwing yourself like an Olympic javelin at the ball carrier. Fundamentals of tackling have been decreasing every year, as the highlight reels and reputations of hard-hitters become more important to players than stopping a ball carrier for a five-yard gain, instead of missing a tackle and allowing a bigger play.
It's a trade-off a lot of players are willing to take, it seems.
That's the current NFL, or so the players would like it to be.
Why is it though, that players are fighting this rule re-enforcement so much then? Because they don't know how to play right anymore.
In a radio show appearance with Fox Sports Radio, Harrison said the following: "I'm going to sit down and have a serious conversation with my coach tomorrow and see if I can actually play by NFL rules and still be effective. If not, I may have to give up playing football."
He added the following, later in the interview:
"I really truly hope it's something that can be done. But the way that things were being explained to me today and the reasoning for it, I don't feel I can continue to play and be effective and, like I say, not have to worry about injuring someone else or risking injury to myself."
Harrison has a legitimate argument here, that the new emphasis on player safety and less dangerous hits, is forcing him to change his game.
Here's where the validity of his argument comes to question, though. Defenders, as I've said earlier, are and should be, trained to tackle the ball carrier by wrapping them up, not by running full blast and jumping head first into the top of their pads.
If you hit clean, you can still hit hard. If you hit above the knees, and below the helmet, it's a perfectly legal hit. Complaining about it making you more tentative and risking your own injury for not playing off of instincts, is detrimental to your own game.
No player is taught to lead with their helmet. That's a no-no from day one. You can seriously injure yourself with the impact of the hit going straight through your spine, and the force created by launching headfirst is much more physically devastating for an offensive player as well.
Legal hits are legal hits for a reason. They've stood the test of time, as the game has adapted.
I understand the fears of fans that want these hits. Many people fear that these hits being outlawed and fined, will lead to a softer game, which most people consider a offensive game to begin with.
If fans really want to continue seeing these now-outlawed and restricted hits, I hear the UFL still allows them.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!