Friday, June 14, 2013

Too many blows to the head?

Sometimes I wonder if some football players are just naturally dumb or they work hard at it.

Take, for example, the reaction of one member of the Browns when the National Football League announced that thigh pads and knee pads are now a mandatory part of a player’s uniform except for punters and placekickers.

To be honest, I didn’t know the NFL Players Association had negotiated to make that equipment optional about 20 years ago.

When Browns wide receiver Greg Little found out the new rule, he adamantly declared, “I’m definitely not wearing pads. It’s just a swag thing. If you don’t feel good, you’re not going to play good.”

Oh, so it’s all about how you feel. All this time I thought it was all about how you played, not felt. I had no idea the two were connected.

I’m not certain how the addition of four fairly lightweight pads can affect how one feels. Besides, how does Little know how he’ll feel with pads if he’s never used them before?

The notion that about of pound and a half of extra equipment will make that much of a difference is preposterous. Before 1994, it didn’t seem to affect the quality of play in the league. Why now all of a sudden?

The notion that pads will restrict or slow down a player or players and give the opponent a competitive edge is nonsense if everyone is required to wear them. All that does is balance the scales.

The new mandate, handed down in yet another effort by the NFL to cut down on potential major injuries, is being met with some degree of resistance by players.

According to some reports, many players cite that legs are rarely struck with most of the contact coming above the waist. OK, so add hip pads to the equipment, too.

How many times have we seen a player’s padless knee or thigh struck by a helmet during a tackle? Not many, but certainly enough times to know that such a tackle can cause major damage such as a blown ligament or deep thigh bruise.

Injuries like those can be the cause of anywhere from a trip to the sidelines for a few games to a season on injured reserve.

Players are at least smart enough to realize that football is no longer a contact sport. It is a collision sport and if players are not protected properly, those collisions are capable of ending careers.

Leave it to a former player to inject some common sense into the latest flare-up. Frank Minnifield, one of the original Dawgs when he played cornerback for the Browns opposite Hanford Dixon from 1984 to 1992, doesn’t understand what the big deal is.

“Ask some of these players if they’re quicker when they are injured,” he told the Plain Dealer. “Imagine taking a helmet or the heel to the kneecap. . . . It can happen at any time. Somebody’s heel swings around and catches you like a sledgehammer. You are rolling the dice.”

Entering this season, roughly 30% of players in the NFL protect their knees and thighs with pads. A 2010 survey conducted by Fox Sports revealed that a vast majority of those who eschewed the pads played on the defensive side of the ball.

According to a league spokesman, uniform inspectors (some call them the uniform police) assigned to the games by the NFL will be given the authority to administer the new rule. Non-compliance could lead to possible disqualification.

So if Little maintains his stance  -- if he’s smart, he’ll concentrate more on becoming a better wide receiver – and thumbs his nose at the latest equipment dictum, we’ll see how long that “swag thing” lasts.

The Browns don’t need these kinds of distractions. What they need to do is have someone sit down with Little, and anyone else on the club with a problem here, and inform them there are many more important issues with which to deal.


  1. uh, maybe he just reacted too quickly without thinking because somebody shoved a mic at him and and popped the question? I'm sure you never do that.

  2. Unkown,

    In answer to your last remark . . . never.

    And don't make excuses for the guy. He spoke without thinking, a malady that plagues many of today's athletes. Some, however, can't help themselves because they are incapable of thinking.

    Next time, pls sign your name.



  3. Rich,

    I would be interested in interviewing for a history I am writing of professional sports in Cleveland. How do I get in contact with you?