Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.
A message is being sent loud and clear to the so-called enforcers on the defensive side of the NFL’s football teams, and in the wake of last week’s games, I think the message is long overdue.
Beginning this weekend, the NFL has made the decision to suspend any player who is deemed to have committed what they are terming as a flagrant or “devastating” hit. That means players like James Harrison, Dunta Robinson, and Brandon Meriweather, who were each involved in elevated, dangerous collisions, could miss playing time for their actions if they are repeated in the future.
Now you may be thinking “Bleacher Fan, don’t you WANT to see your team perform with the highest levels of intensity possible? Don’t you WANT to see your team protect THEIR house at all cost?”
Yes, I do. But nothing bothers me more than seeing a player go down and not get back up, ESPECIALLY when they went down because a careless and reckless player from the other team had no regard for their safety, and needlessly put them at excessive risk for SERIOUS harm. That I CANNOT tolerate, and neither should the NFL.
Congratulations, NFL, you got this one right!
Identifying and understanding the change
Before the doomsday naysayers start calling for the end times, it is important to pull your fingers off the panic button and realize a very important thing – the NFL does not appear to have any interest in changing the rule for what is defined as a flagrant hit.
I will say it again. The same hits that were legal yesterday are still legal today, and will be legal tomorrow. The only thing that the NFL is changing is the penalty that comes from committing what they have labeled as an egregious or devastating hit.
Why the change?
After a higher than normal concentration of alarming and very dangerous incidents over the past weekend that left several players injured, the NFL has FINALLY come to a realization – a $15,000 (or even $75,000) fine is no deterrent to people who make millions every year.
But now, it appears they have found a way to get their message across that gratuitous brutality for its own sake will not be tolerated, and they have found the leverage they needed to let the players know they are serious.
Suspend those players who endanger their colleagues.
Protecting players AND the game
Opponents to this new rule have all said the same thing. “This will ruin the game of football by watering it down with another protection rule.”
Last weekend, there were a total of 1900 recorded tackles in the NFL, only five of which had been called into question as being excessive. That means that the other 1895 tackles were all deemed to be perfectly legitimate (that’s 99.7% for all you math whizzes out there).
The NFL was not built on this style of violent tackling (technically, it’s not even really tackling, but we’ll get to that in a minute), and it does not celebrate it. Each week, most (if not all) of the games that take place can play out without a single incident of excessive or devastating hitting. So to say that the NFL “needs” this style of physicality, or that penalizing it with a suspension will “ruin” the game of football is a gross overstatement.
1895 people managed to tackle the ball holder without having to resort to excessive and violent contact. I cannot accept the flawed and sensationalized argument that the other five tackles were so necessary to their respective games AND to the greater league at-large, that they were worth endangering the safety of the players involved.
Spare me on the drama.
The reality is that this rule will help to protect the entire league, and all of its players, by ensuring that reckless and dangerous players like James Harrison (who has openly admitted that his intention is to “hurt” opponents) cannot get away with hits where the violence exceeds the necessity of the situation.
A defender’s job is to stop the play from continuing, not to hurt the guy with the ball.
A return to fundamentals
This rule change will have a secondary effect on the NFL, aside from the obvious and much needed benefit of protecting the safety of the players. It will actually improve the QUALITY of the defense that is being played!
Have you ever been a fan at a game, only to watch the opposition break three, four, or even five tackles en route to the end zone? I have, and it is one of the most frustrating things that a fan can have to endure.
Why does this happen? Because defenders today have gotten away from the fundamentals of good, solid tackling.
The technique is called “tackling”, rather than “hitting” or “knocking down” for a reason. The object is not to just hit the ball handler, or to try and knock him down; it is to bring him to the ground. When players go for the big hit, rather than just making the tackle, they are playing fundamentally poor football, and a price is usually paid for that lack of fundamentals.
The allure of making a highlight reel caliber hit has replaced the value of simply STOPPING THE PLAY.
But since fans HAVE become so enamored with highlight reels, the result is that defenders go for the acrobatic, high-impact hit, rather than just making a clean, fundamentally sound tackle that saves yards, points, and possibly the game. In doing so, they are gambling with the safety of their fellow players, and gambling with their team’s future, all for the selfish interest of making ESPN’s Top Ten Plays of the Day.
More often than not, though, the gamble doesn’t pay off, as they either fail to bring the ball-handler down, or they seriously injure him (likely giving up yards to a penalty), neither of which are really worth the price.
Instead of using their arms, these athletes have developed the bad habit of trying to tackle using only their shoulders and helmets, and as a result, the quality of tackling in the NFL is absolutely horrendous.
Through this rule change, defenders will be forced to rely more on fundamentally sound tackling techniques, which will improve the quality of defense that is played on the field, AND which happens to also be MUCH safer for everyone involved.
What to expect
Fans going to the stadium need not worry. They will still get to see the same, exciting football that they have come to love over the years.
The NFL is populated with some of the top athletes in the world. These athletes will continue to treat millions of fans every weekend to amazing demonstrations of athletic achievement. There will be great runs, acrobatic catches, amazing performances that defy the odds, and yes, there will STILL be high energy hits on defense.
Defenders are still allowed to hit rather than tackle (if they so choose), and can still try to intimidate with physicality on the gridiron. The NFL is simply applying a little more force behind their very necessary rule of protecting the health and safety of their athletes.
Tackles are not made with the head and shoulders, and should not be targeted at the head and shoulders. And for players like James Harrison, Brandon Meriweather, et al, who would willingly forfeit $25,000 for the opportunity to lay a hit that “geeks you up” because you’ve knocked someone out, they are about to experiencing a much needed, sharper bite behind the bark of the NFL.