Thursday, October 21, 2010

Keep thy head up

The uproar caused by the National Football League's decision to finally enforce the rule regarding helmet contact is not unexpected. Anytime you deal with something that rattles how the game is played, such a reaction can be expected.

All the NFL wants to do is protect its players. Sure, it promotes how tough the sport can be and sometimes goes too far in highlighting the gratuitous violence.

The biggest perpetrators of his practice, however, is ESPN. While reporting about the NFL's decision to crack down on the most violent hits, it looped a B roll of the hits last Sunday that prompted this furor. As the reader reported the story, we constantly saw Dunta Robinson drive DeSean Jackson into next week; James harrison knock out two Cleveland Browns; and Brandon Meriweather knock Todd Heap into dreamland. Over and over and over. Ad nauseam.

Harrison, fined $75,000 by the league for his rather extreme way of playing the game against Cleveland, threatened to quit because he didn't know if he could play football the way the NFL poobahs wanted. Anyone who took that seriously is either naive or will believe anything. He's back and nastier than ever.

Yes, the league has overreacted to the devastating hits Sunday. But if anyone is to blame, it would be Roger Goodell, who has declared that the players' safety is his main goal.

What the commissioner should have done is sit down with his on-field officials at the beginning of the season and laid down the law. Helmet hits would result in immediate ejections. Use your helmet as a weapon and you're gone. That goes for offensive players, as well as their defensive counterparts.

The helmet has no place in football other than to cover the most vital part of the body -- the head.

If Goodell and his officials had taken that approach before the season, the latest controversy would have been averted. Now, we'll most likely see an overreaction by the officials with ejections aplenty this Sunday, some of them unwarranted.

It's very clear that a new way of tackling must be taught by coaching staffs around the NFL. Hitting with the shoulder aimed at a target somewhere between the hip and shoulder area and wrapping up the ball carrier with the arms is nothing more than a throwback to the way football was played before players began launching themselves as missiles.

And stay away from the knees. That'll draw the yellow laundry, too.

In hockey, it is understood that if you want to remain relatively healthy, it's much better and safer if you skate with your head up. Keeping the head up should be the rule in football, too.

Want to hit a ball carrier? Keep they head up and out of the way or else you could find yourself on the wrong side of a fine or, worse, a suspension.

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