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The problem with taking away head shots
The solution to the NFL’s helmet-to-helmet controversy is simple: suspend any player who leaves his feet in an attempt to block or tackle an opposing player head-on beyond the line of scrimmage.
A player should be allowed to “launch” himself in just a few scenarios: 1. A ball carrier leaping over the line of scrimmage; 2. A defender leaping over the line of scrimmage in an attempt to make a play in the backfield; 3. A receiver/defender trying to make a play on the ball; 4. A defender attempting to make a tackle from behind.
Yep, in my mind, it’s rather easy to cut down on the rash of “devastating” hits that highlighted/marred last weekend’s play. You can eliminate the “defenseless” player interpretation by simply grounding James Harrison, Brandon Meriweather and all the rest. Make the defensive side of the line of scrimmage a no-fly zone.
The rule would be enforced from the replay booth and would not result in a yardage penalty. A player would be tossed from the game, the hit would be reviewed by the league on Tuesday and the player would be subject to an automatic one-game suspension for his first offense.
This is not that complicated. Most of the hits the league is trying to eliminate are a result of a defensive player turning himself into a human missile in an effort to “blow up” the opposition. Missiles have heads/helmets. Stop the missiles from leaving the ground and you’ll reduce a healthy percentage of nasty helmet-to-helmet contact.
Again, the solution is simple. The real problem is the ramifications of the solution.
In the modern-era, TV-friendly, tilt-all-rules-in-favor-of-the-quarterback NFL, intimidation is a defense’s last and only weapon.
Ray Lewis needs a handwritten, notarized letter from Roger Goodell to touch Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. NFL pass-interference and illegal-contact rules make slowing Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson virtually impossible.
The threat of Ed Reed placing the crown of his helmet on Chad Ochocinco’s chinstrap is/was the only thing that separated the league from a Madden video game.
The separation is gone. Hell, it’s so safe across the middle now that rumors are floating Randy Moss has agreed to run a crossing route before the end of the season. Seriously, Vikings coaches are expected to spend most of Wednesday’s practice explaining to Moss what the hash marks are running down the middle of the field.
The new emphasis on eliminating helmet-to-helmet contact is dramatic, unprecedented midseason change. The game has been significantly altered.
It’s like when Wee-Bey went down at the end of Season 1 of "The Wire." If you really understood the game, you knew Avon and Stringer were on borrowed time from the moment McNulty cuffed Wee-Bey for his role in Kima’s shooting. Avon never loses the east side to Marlo if Bey is free to deal with Chris and Snoop.
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All the rules protecting the quarterback were Mayor Royce bringing down The Towers. The assault on helmet-to-helmet contact is the elimination of Ray Lewis’ muscle.
It’s flag football now. Or worse, it’s the Pro Bowl.
That’s not tough-guy whining. I’m all for making the game safer. I’m not against this sea change.
This whole awakening about the dangers of football must be what it was like when America figured out cigarettes killed. What’s more pervasive in America, the NFL in 2010 or Marlboro in 1950? Maybe NFL helmets will eventually come with a warning label from the surgeon general.
Warning: Football kills.
It’s true. Will that knowledge harm the popularity of the game?
It’s not as thrilling watching grown men blow each other up when we know the consequences. Muhammad Ali’s Parkinson’s Disease damaged boxing more than the obvious corruption.
The NFL can’t survive another Darryl Stingley and Jack Tatum. ESPN would replay the hit over and over and broadcast countless shows debating NFL savagery. At some point, a savvy politician would step in and turn it into a political issue.
Roger Goodell is being proactive rather than reactive. Good for him and the NFL. Bad for Ray Lewis and defensive players.
During the offseason, the competition committee needs to give defensive players an alternative weapon. Believe it or not, there are a few NFL fans who enjoy watching great defense. NFL pass-interference rules should be examined and massaged.
Change the contact area to 10 yards. Only flagrant pass interference should be a spot-of-the-foul penalty. Arm bars and a little hand-fighting should be legal. Give the defense a chance to defend the passing game.
Football can’t be turned into a total finesse game.
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