Last week, several hard hits knocked some of the NFL’s best players. DeSean Jackson, Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi were three of the casualties. True, Dunta Robinson could’ve ended DeSean Jackson’s career, if the hit was a couple of inches higher, but that is the reality of the sport of football. Recently, Dunta Robinson was fined $50,000 by the NFL.
According to the NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson, the NFL will begin issuing suspensions for hard hits and “head shots.” Although in theory this a great idea; in practice, I think this hard-nosed regulation will spoil the sport and not for the better. Howie Long, a Fox NFL commentator, made a point a couple of weeks ago. He described hits in professional football are like two guys running full speed at each other twenty times or more a game. In 2009, DeSean Jackson, Kurt Warner, and Ben Roethlisberger suffered head injuries, and stricter guidelines were introduced. According to the guidelines, a player who suffers a concussion should not return to play or practice on the same day, if concussion symptoms are prevalent and after “a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and…cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant.” In a sport where these hits are bound to happen and multi-million-dollar contracts can be broken in an instant, NFL coaches and players will nod to these rules and the stricter one forthcoming, but generally, the NFL can’t regulate how players are going to react while in the “zone.” Football is a high-impact and intensely competitive sport. It’s like asking former Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins in his prime not be Brian Dawkins or Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher not to be Brian Urlacher. An impossible task.
This is the sport of gladiators and age old warriors, as touted in the movie Any Given Sunday. If the hits are to be regulated to a high degree, the sport itself will lose its edge and quite possibly its fanbase.
Correction: Howie Long, not Terry Bradshaw, was the NFL analyst who made the comment. I apologize for any confusion.