Injuries riddled the NFL last season. In the AFC, the body count left only two teams with a legitimate chance of reaching the Super Bowl. In the NFC, a scary Chicago Bears team lost their quarterback and the dangerous Michael Vick battled one injury after another. Fortunately, logic points to a return to the norm.
For one, we will not have to worry about a NFL lockout affecting the continuity of play calls. A blown assignment can result in Ben Roethlisberger getting rocked, Michael Vick panicking and relying on his speed or Matt Schaub landing on the IR. It is not out of the question to believe better preparation could have resulted in one or all of those stars to survive the season.
Admittedly, we will never know the true impact the lockout had on the 2011 season. What is not debatable is the impact the Thor's Hammer Roger Goodell dropped on the New Orleans Saints will have on defenses.
Former players and coaches admit that some form of bounties have existed in the NFL for decades. If you find this dirty little secret hard to believe, check out this entertaining video from Mike Ditka's days with Da Bears. Those days are over. Even the relatively innocent bounties paid for an interception or a good clean hit will be gone.
The penalties on the Saints are not an isolated incident. It is merely part of a trend that has started since Goodell became NFL commissioner. Numerous fines have been levied for dirty or concussion-causing hits, but players still did not get the message. Finally, Goodell went to the route of suspensions.
First Ndamukong Suh felt the wrath. After a Thanksgiving Day stomp, Suh was dismissed for two games. An after-the-whistle dirty play that resulted in a suspension was not unprecedented. The suspension of James Harrison was. Never had a player been banned for a heat-of-the-moment hit like Harrison's on Colt McCoy. The fines did not work, but taking Harrison out of the game in the middle of a playoff race seemed to do the trick for the Pittsburgh Steelers' All-Pro linebacker.
The message has been sent, loud and clear. Dirty plays and hits to the head will not be tolerated. Maybe this will keep your favorite players on the field just a little bit longer.