When we think of American football what comes to mind? Normally we think of amazing throws, incredible catches, spectacular runs, game winning field goals, and big hits. Well, after the end of Week 6, what really stood out were the big hits. For those familiar or unfamiliar with football terminology that means players were laying the wood.
The NFL apparently didn't take too kindly to some of these massive collisions. Three of these hits lead to concussions and one of them caused Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson to exhibit signs of temporary memory loss. There were fines awarded to those who brought the boom: Pittsburgh's James Harrison ($75,000), New England's Brandon Meriwether ($50,000) and Atlanta's Dunta Robinson ($50,000). The fines for all three players totaled to $175,000 for flagrant violations of player safety rules. NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson issued the fines and informed the players in letters that future infractions will lead to escalated fines and suspensions.
Player safety is important not only in football but in all sports. However, American football is the equivalent to that of modern day Roman Gladiators. To be specific, football is a violent sport. And the irony of the situation is that hard hits are a significant part of the game, but players are being fined for doing their job.
The NFL is correct in taking precautions. There should be rules to discourage players from leading with their heads to make a tackle. Helmet to helmet tackles have resulted in players having concussions, paralysis and in rear instances death. And officials have the authority to eject players who violate the flagrant hit rule during the game. The league also plans to talk to officials to give them a better understanding about their authority to execute the ejections under these circumstances.
The NFL wants players to get back to basics when it comes to tackling. The NFL is referring leading with shoulder or form tackling. Form tackling: A defender places their head on either side of the body about chest level and takes their arms and wraps it around opposing player's waist causing them to halt momentum and tackle player to ground.
Hopefully, the NFL and its players can do their best to make the necessary adjustments on all levels. But spectators and fans will feel a little deprived if there aren't any bone rattling collisions. Imagine taking the slam dunk away from basketball, the home run away from baseball or no fighting in hockey. How do you think people would feel or respond? Most sport enthusiasts and athletes would feel jilted and slightly discouraged from watching or participating. This is not to say that the NFL will go from tackling to two hand touch. But it seems like penalties, such as not roughing the passer or kicker, and flagrant hits are diluting the NFL of its raw and physical nature.
And think of the defender who is on the field over contemplating about getting fined or suspended for a hard hit that could be interpreted as flagrant. If football is all about yards then every millisecond is about making a decision that can alter the course of a game. The defender himself is more of a liability. In the game of football, you need to think as fast as you react.
And as long as there is football to be played then the hits are going to keep on coming. It doesn't make a difference if the hits are intentional or not, the NFL is going to enforce the flagrant hit rule. However, the rule defeats the purpose when a player has already been laid out and sprawled on the ground. There is no clear cut advantage for the league or the defender.