I remember a day in the NFL when hitting the opposing players was not only OK, but encouraged.
During the NFL Week 6 games, there were four hits that have become famous to this point, or infamous I should say. Two of those hits were from Pittsburgh Steelers OLB James Harrison, one of the hits was from Atlanta Falcons CB Daunta Robinson and the fourth was from New England Patriots SS Brandon Merriweather.
Of the four hits, the fines totaled $200,000. Harrison was fined $75,000 for his hit on Mohammad Massaquoi, while not being punished at all for his hit on Josh Cribbs. Merriwather was also fined $75,000 for his hit of Todd Heap of the Baltimore Ravens. Robinson was fined $50,000 for a hit that not only took out DeSean Jackson, but took himself out as well.
Was this week so much worse than the previous weeks of the season?
The NFL is stating that the reason for the fines, and future suspensions of players to "lead with their helmet," is for the safety of the players on the field.
I say, "Nonsense."
I am not talking from a standpoint where I have never put the pads on. I played high school football, and even had a six-week, semipro career.
Add to that, I was a youth coach for nearly 10 years, for Pop Warner football, coaching the Mighty Mite division.
(For those of you that do not know, Mighty Mite was for 7-9-year-olds. It used to be the first full-contact league.)
In order to coach at that level, the main focus was on teaching the kids how to play the right way. I said to the parents, "First comes safety, then comes fun."
The biggest issue I had was teaching the kids to hit with their helmets up, so not to break their necks.
What was it that was taught? Keep your body square, put your face mask on the football, wrap up and drive the player into the ground. That is what we taught the kids from the first day they put their pads on.
So, what happens when a player squares up, puts their helmet on the football and the other player, seeing he is about to get hit, turns his shoulder for the contact?
Helmet-to-helmet hits are a part of the game. You can make any rule that you want to, and players are going to hit, helmet-to-helmet, more often than not. Football is a scary game. It is intense, it is emotional and it is dangerous.
Every player, the first time he plays football, gets his equipment, and is taught how to put it on. Every one always asked me, why so many pads? And I said, for your protection.
Back in the 1970s, football was not even close to what it is today. Defenders were given two-and-a-half steps after the quarter back threw the ball, and could still hit him. Players such as Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Night Train Lane, Ed Too Tall Jones and many, many others made a living off of being ferocious players. They were going to hit you, hurt you and that was going to be that.
The NFL is now trying to show that they are doing this for the safety of the players, because, as they say, they don't want players injured. Really? Then why are you expanding the regular season to 18 games?
Do you not think that playing two additional games is going to cause more injuries per year, and shorten players' careers?
The reason for the additional two games per team, per season, can be justified by the additional revenue that the teams will be bringing in. The head injuries, though they should be a concern, have no way of making the league more money, so it is easy for them to say they want to eliminate them.
See, the NFL is trying to have their cake, and eat it too. The problem is, the league is going to suffer because of it.
With the formation of the UFL, no one (with the exception of Mark Cuban) thinks they would ever have a chance to compete against the NFL. If the UFL keeps the game the way it is now, and the NFL keeps taking the excitement out of football, one day, Cuban could be right, and the UFL could compete with the NFL.
At least those fans, like myself, that would rather see a good, hard-fought game, than a penalty-flag fest, think so.