Thursday, October 21, 2010


Woody Hayes, the late coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, once said something to the effect that college football players at that level of play were so talented "we could make them stop in midair if we wanted to." It stands to reason that NFL players could do likewise. Which is why the NFL's edict last Monday that it was going to suspend players that initiate excessively violent helmet-to-helmet collisions, like the one featured above depicting the Steelers' James Harrison decapitating Mohammed Massaquoi of the Browns last Sunday, was way overdue.

After all, the rule is clear. A player is not allowed to use any part of the helmet to "butt, spear or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily." Period. And when a player launches himself into the air head first to blow up an opposing player instead of, say, aiming between the numbers and wrapping up with the arms, that is a"violent and unnecessary" method of tackling the ball carrier. In fact, at that point the defender is not trying to bring down the opponent. He is trying to maim him.

But let's not lay all of the blame on the players. The NFL and the media has long glorified these excessively violent collisions. Even young football players talk about "blowing up" or "jacking up" an opponent. Harrison, was actually as quoted as saying that he didn't really worry when he knocks an opposing player out because the player is "just sleeping."

No, you idiot. It's a concussion. It may affect him in later life. The cumulative effect of leading with the head may even adversely impact James Harrison in later life as well. Which is frightening when you consider the lack of higher cortical function already evidenced by Harrison's idiotic statements about the subject.

NFL players know what they are in for. They play a violent game in which huge players collide at a high rate of speed. And some helmet-to-helmet contact will always be inevitable. But the helmet should not be used as a weapon.

The NFL should give the refs the authority to eject players on the spot for violating the new rule. And they should fine and suspend any violators. These guys can stop in midair. They can lower the strike zone just as easily. In act, as a public service to the league, I will suggest appropriate nominees to chair a committee to review such hits not settled on the field on a case by case basis to see if they violate the policy. I hereby nominate former players Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Lynn Swann, and Ronnie Lott. Conrad Dobler could be Chairman to cast any tie-breaking vote. These guys know from dirty. The vote from any such committee would be enforced by the Commissioner.

Otherwise, why not hold the next Super Bowl in the Roman Coliseum?

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