You never want to see anyone get seriously injured, except for maybe Brett Favre and any Green Bay Packer, but the new enforcement of NFL rules on “devastating hits” is absolutely ridiculous! Pretty soon the sport we all know and love will become a distant memory and the NFL will be an aftertought. It’s time for Big Brother Roger Goodell and Co. to take a deep breath, step back and relax. One week of big hits should not change the rules or their enforcement.
Besides, where is the big outcry for people against big hits? Who is complaining? All I’ve heard over the last couple of days are players clamoring about what the league is doing to their game. All I’ve heard are people from all circles standing up for the legal hits that have suddenly been outlawed from a game that by its very nature is a collision sport. Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher made national headlines with this quote on the subject:
“It’s freaking football. There are going to be big hits,” Urlacher said. “I don’t understand how they can do this after one weekend of hitting. And I can’t understand how they can suspend us for it. I think it’s a bunch of bull (crap).
“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.”
James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who delivered one of these so-called devastating hits last weekend and was subsequently fined $75000 for a hit that by all accounts was perfectly and completely legal, is contemplating retirement rather than try to change the way he plays the game. (I think there’s a bit of posturing going on, but the point is well made). The rules have already changed the way the game is played. Don’t hit too high. Don’t hit to low. Don’t horse collar him. Don’t wrinkle his skirt as you gently suggest to him that he should take a seat on the turf. Come on!
Here are some more quotes from players…
“What they’re trying to say — ‘We’re protecting the integrity’ — no, you’re not,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. “It’s ruining the integrity. It’s not even football anymore. We should just go out there and play two-hand touch Sunday if we can’t make contact.”
Head coach Lovie Smith:
“As far as suspensions for something that guys aren’t really trying to do, I think that may be a little bit harsh,” Smith said Wednesday. “But we’re going to go by the rules that the NFL sets up.”
Chris Harris, known as Da Hitman, has been particularly outspoken against the latest policy (via Sean Jensen’s Inside the Bears blog):
Chris Harris on what he thinks is a hypocritical stance by the league: “You preach that you want to protect players, yet they want to add two more games to make more money but that’s not making anybody safer.”
Harris on if the fines will change the way he plays: “I can’t change the way I play this game. That’s like asking a smoker to stop smoking tomorrow. I’ve been doing this for 10 years.”
* Harris on the inherent risks of playing in the NFL: “We all chose to play this game. No one put a gun up to our head and said, ‘Hey, you have to play.’ Right now, we’re more educated than they were back in the day. It kind of baffles me a little bit, because we know what’s going on. This is football.”
* Harris on the three hits in question: “For Dunta Robinson to get fined $50,000 for making a great football play is kind of unreal, unheard of. It frustrates me to see this happen. I totally understand the Meriwether hit. Bad play. I mean, bad play. But James Harrison, he’s making a football play.
Harris on the NFL selling photos of one of the plays then stopping: “That’s baffling as well… To see that, on the NFL’s official website, to see them selling that hit is total hypocrisy.”
When I hear player after player talk about the way they are taught to play the game and their warrior mentality out there, it reminded me of this talk between Rocky and Apollo in Rocky IV:
Now we know this turned out for Apollo, but I think the point that this warrior mentality is ingrained in the players rings true. They all know the risks of playing this sport going in and they play of their own free will. No one is forced to slap on the shoulder pads every Sunday. And don’t forget, they are paid very handsomely to play a game, to entertain.
It’s time to take the skirts off and get back to good, old-fashioned football; the football of Butkus and Dent and Ditka before it’s too late!
Through the month of October, my usual BEAR DOWN signoff will be in pink to raise awareness for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.