Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday leftovers

It will be extremely interesting to see what the National Football League does in the wake of a spate of recent head injuries, several of which became concussions. The league has become super sensitive when it comes to concussions and Roger Goodell has made it perfectly clear he will take the matter seriously.

After Sunday's carnage -- OK, a slight exaggeration -- in the NFL, it's readily apparent that something needs to be done right now if the league wants to avoid what could turn out to be a tragedy. And there is a way to deal with the problem. It's radical, but could be very effective.

It's quite easy. Immediately legislate helmet hits out of the game. Any hit involving the helmet draws a penalty. Whether it's a defensive player or offensive player, helmet hits are out. Period.

Broken bones are one thing. Torn muscles, ligaments and cartilage are another. So are sprained body parts. The one part of the body that should be off limits to any kind of damage is the brain. It needs to be protected as much as possible in a game that features unmitigated violence.

So how can the league effectively deal with helmet hits? Easy. The first helmet hit costs the perpetrator a $10,000 fine and a warning. Do it again and it'll cost you a lot more.

A second offense draws a $20,000 fine and a one-game suspension. Do it again and you miss the next four games without pay. If you persist, you might as well prepare for next season.

There is a rule in the NFL that states if you lead with the crown of your helmet, that constitutes spearing and should draw an immediate flag. Unfortunately, officials seem to have forgotten that rule, concentrating instead on the new rule that prohibits unnecessary violence against a defenseless player.

Goodell and his minions should draft a quick memo and send it down to their striped buddies on the field. If a helmet is involved in play, reach for your flag. If the players complain, too bad.

Hit the players where they feel it the most -- their game checks. Sooner or later, they'll get the message.

Football NFL style was played just as violently 30, 40, even 50 years ago. Players got hurt. Back then, however, they knew how to tackle. They were more fundamentally sound than most of today's players. They didn't have to launch themselves at the opposition. They learned to tackle the correct way by wrapping and dropping. Players today use their bodies like missiles.

The helmet is a weapon and until the NFL legislates it out of the injury equation, that weapon will continue to swell the rolls of players with concussions.

If it takes incidents like Atlanta defensive back Dunta Robinson's crushing hit on Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson or James Harrison's twin takeouts Sunday against the Browns to get the league moving, then it might be all worth it. If not, heaven help the player who winds up a paraplegic or, worse, dead.

Fans are still buzzing about Colt McCoy's pro debut in Sunday's loss in Pittsburgh. Some are anointing him the next big thing, the Browns' future unfolding before our very eyes. That, of course, is understandable since most Browns fans will latch onto anything that is remotely hopeful.

Others are taking a more conservative approach. It's only one game, they say. And they would be correct. But McCoy did display a poise most uncommon for someone so young in such an important role. And you might have noticed there was no huddle confusion and not once were the Browns flagged for a false start. That's to McCoy's credit.

I must admit I was against McCoy making his pro debut against a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers. I feared he would be overwhelmed and called for Eric Mangini to start Brett Ratliff instead. I was wrong. At least for this one game. Let's see how he fares against the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots in the next two games.

The Steelers had no idea what to expect from McCoy. They had no tape on which to make any preparations.He was an unknown factor. The Saints now have tape. And you can bet Bill Belichick will have a few surprises for the kid when they meet after the bye week.

What is going to take for Mangini and Brian Daboll to realize Evan Moore needs to become more involved in the offense? At the risk of sounding repetitious, Moore is not a tight end. He's a wide receiver in a tight end's body, much like Joe Jurevicius. It's no accident that he continually finds ways got get open. McCoy found him a few times for sizable gains in the Pittsburgh loss. His size and soft hands should make him a desirable target.

Perhaps it's time to make Eric Wright the nickelback and start rookie Joe Haden at cornerback. How much worse can Haden be than Wright, who has backslid so badly, his confidence has to be shot? What do the Browns have to lose by making the switch? Another game? They're already 1-5. Also, send Haden out to return punts now that Joshua Cribbs is going to be out for a while. Let Chansi Stuckey concentrate on catching passes because he certainly lacks the knack for catching punts.

For those of you wondering whether James Harrison of the Steelers will fined for his play Sunday, count on it. It will happen and it wouldn't surprise if he gets nailed twice. He'll complain, of course, but you can also count on his coaches reeling him in on the violence thing. If I'm wrong and history repeats itself, Harrison will be involuntarily contributing to NFL charities well into the season

It's time the Browns finally admit they made a mistake when they drafted Brian Robiskie in the second round in 2009. The kid from Chagrin Falls has been a colossal bust. With Cribbs and Mo Massaquoi out with injures against Pittsburgh, McCoy still found Moore and Ben Watson much more often than Robiskie. That's an indictment. The kid might be a nice blocker, but they didn't draft him to block.

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