RBs, defensive players familiar with helmet knocks
A couple of weeks ago, Steven Jackson figured he made
helmet-to-helmet contact on a dozen of his 28 carries against the
Cardinals. Sometimes it was a matter of defenders taking a certain
angle, sometimes it was the St. Louis Rams’ bruiser lowering the
boom for that extra yard.
Just another typical, head-jarring day for a punishing 235-pound
back closing in on his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Giving
it, taking it, playing hard but clean.
”I feel like there’s very few guys that intentionally try to
tackle with their head and to knock guys out,” said Jackson, now
in his seventh season. ”The times I have had concussions, I’ve
just taken it as a part of the game and that guys are just playing
Even as NFL data shows that the number of reported concussions
has increased more than 20 percent from 2009, and more than 30
percent from 2008, the guys who grind out the tough yards – and
some of those who tackle them – say knocking heads is inevitable.
Their overriding sentiment: let’s just play.
”It’s not a tickling contest,” Rams defensive end James Hall
said. ”I’m not looking for any protection.”
There’s nothing stopping Jackson, Michael Turner or Arian Foster
from ramming forward, full speed ahead for the first-down marker.
Jackson gave Cardinals linebacker Harold Hayes a good, incidental
conking on a no-gain carry to start the second half back on Dec.
Arizona safety Adrian Wilson clocked Jackson a couple of times
with helmet-on-helmet contact, and Hayes got in a lick when he
pushed Jackson out of bounds on another play.
Nobody was jumping up and down, tapping their helmet and begging
for a call. Just football.
”I hope they don’t start fining the running backs for leading
with their helmets because the linebackers and tackles definitely
are not defenseless players,” Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli said.
”If they can’t get out of the way, that sounds like a personal
problem for them.”
Back in Pop Warner ball, running backs are taught to stay low.
It gives tacklers a smaller target, and it’s safer for the runner.
So guess which part of the body is out front?
”I know people don’t want us to run through the hole straight
up and get our chests blown off,” Broncos running back Correll
Buckhalter said. ”It’s just a natural thing for the running back
to run with his head down.”
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson never worries about getting
penalized for lowering his head. The defender who lowers his head
in response will, he believes, attract all the attention.
”Actually, I’ve had a couple of collisions where I thought,
‘Hey, well, maybe that guy’s going to get fined because I know that
was a helmet-to-helmet hit,”’ Peterson said. ”But there was no
fine issued and it was no big deal to me. It is what it is.”
Broncos rookie running back Knowshon Moreno said the only way
through some holes is to ”submarine through,” though he believes
that makes him more vulnerable.
”If the running back has his head down, all sorts of things can
happen,” he said.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for a defensive player to be
So, advantage offense.
”You get a lot of running backs trying to ram into you, Earl
Campbell-esque,” Broncos linebacker Mario Haggan said. ”The last
thing you want to do is hit a guy who’s 250 pounds like Steven
Jackson and think about the way you’re going to hit him.”
Earlier this season, Packers linebacker Nick Barnett complained
he’s faced too many backs with their heads straight down ”trying
to truck you.” Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware said there’s a
double standard, adding, ”If they are leading with their head and
you hit them, they’re not going to call it.”
Broncos outside linebacker Jason Hunter isn’t alone in
questioning some of the fines handed out for helmet-to-helmet
”I understand the league wants to try and protect its players,
and do everything they can to make sure everybody’s playing safe
and fair,” Hunter said. ”But at the same time it’s a violent
game, and sometimes when you’re going in there at 100 mph you’re
not focused on how you’re going to hit the guy, you’re just going
to make the hit.”
Added Falcons linebacker Erik Coleman: ”You don’t have air
brakes. You can’t stop when you’ve left your feet.”
Ron Bartell, the Rams’ top coverage cornerback, missed Sunday’s
loss at New Orleans with a stinger to his neck and left shoulder
suffered in a game a week earlier.
”It’s one of those things, if you take a hit the wrong way or
tackle somebody the wrong way it’s something that just may
happen,” Bartell said. He said bluntly that the NFL is guilty of
”It’s easy for them to sit back and make judgments when they’re
never played the game, especially nowadays and guys are so big and
so fast,” Bartell said. ”I understand about protecting players
but it’s a little bit overboard.”
AP Sports Writers Arnie Stapleton, Dave Campbell, Charles Odum
and Jaime Aron, and AP freelance writer Todd McMahon contributed to