|New hitting guidelines earn mixed reactions|
|Written by Michael Boyd, Daily Vidette Sports Columnist|
|Thursday, 11 November 2010 00:04|
There is no question the speed of an NFL game today is much faster than it was 20 years ago. Today’s players are bigger, faster, stronger and use multi-million dollar contracts as incentive to be the best they can be.
With the advancement of the speed and strength of games today, it is not surprising that more severe injuries are becoming common in the NFL.
This season is no exception with countless players needing to be carted off the field on stretchers after taking severe helmet-to-helmet collisions. Defensive players are receiving massive fines and soon to be suspensions left and right for illegal hits against defenseless players and late hits on quarterbacks.
That’s why the NFL officially released the new hitting guidelines Tuesday to try and avoid further illegal and dangerous hits. The guidelines are designed to protect defenseless players from taking major shots to the head or neck area.
A defenseless player is defined in many ways: a quarterback in the act of passing, a wide receiver or returner in the process of making a catch, a runner whose forward progress has been stopped, a player on the ground at the end of the play, a kicker or punter in the act of kicking and a long snapper during field goals and punts.
We’ve seen it countless times to wide receivers alone this year. Eagles wideout Desean Jackson took a direct helmet-to-helmet hit from Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson and was sidelined several weeks with a severe concussion. Robinson was fined $50,000 for the hit.
Ravens tight end Todd Heap took a nasty shot from Patriot safety Brandon Meriweather that also landed a $50,000 fine for the defensive player.
Just this past week, Colts wideout Austin Collie needed a stretcher to be taken off the field after two Philadelphia defenders hit him in the head.
There aren’t necessarily new rules, just stricter penalties for players breaking them. No longer will first-time offenders get off without a fine or suspension because now discipline can be imposed for a first offense and without prior warning. Officials who are unsure whether to throw a flag on a particular play are now being encouraged to do so in order to protect player safety.
Defensive players who commit these illegal hits and are not flagged during the game still have something to fret about as well.
This sentence comes straight from the new hitting guidelines book and is in bold type: “If a postgame review establishes an egregious violation, particularly involving safety-related issues such as hits on the quarterback, the offender may be subject to suspension.”
Many defensive stars of the league are not accepting this without a fight however. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been one of the most outspoken players against the new policy after being fined $75,000 for two illegal hits earlier in the year.
The veteran linebacker is now contemplating retirement with all the new hitting rules.
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher also has a problem with the new rules and told the Chicago Tribune about it in October.
“You know what we should do? We should just put flags on everybody. Let’s make it the NFFL, the National Flag Football League. It’s unbelievable,” Urlacher said.
He added, “This is all very frustrating to me. We’re already handicapped on defense with the corners not being able to hit past five yards. Quarterbacks can throw the balls out of bounds when out of the pocket. I know this is an offensive league and I know people want to see points, but damn man.”
I personally think the new guidelines will help the league in the long run, and although it would be aggravating as a defensive player making sure to tackle correctly, these new policies will help keep defenseless players from being carted off in body bags.
For athletes to dedicate their entire lives for a chance to play NFL football and to have it all thrown away from one cheap shot to the head doesn’t seem right. If defensive players begin learning proper hitting techniques in high school and college football it would make professional football a much safer game.
Hopefully the guidelines work and defensive players become a little more cautious when they have the opportunity to nail an unsuspecting player. I may not be a fan of some players in the league, but I certainly don’t want to see any of them end their lives or careers on a cheap shot.