Steelers LB James Harrison
The recent NFL rule changes regarding what is a legal and illegal hit have caused a great deal of controversy and discussion among players, coaches and the league. The players are whining that they no longer can make a hard hit because of the new fear of the corresponding fines or suspensions. Coaches are claiming that the way tackling is taught must be completely changed because of the new rules.
The NFL's stance is that players must be protected from illegal helmet or shoulder-leading hits, which are more likely to cause concussions and other injuries that can shorten a player's career in the league, and generally affect their personal health. This seems to be most directed toward protecting quarterbacks, and other offensive skill players who can be placed in vulnerable situations in the open field where protecting themselves becomes difficult, if not impossible.
The league has the right to make rule changes as they see fit, which they see as being in the best interest of the game. Nothing the players do or say will change this, but there are several who are spending plenty of time complaining and whining about it anyway.
The most vocal of the bunch is Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, who has been fined a total of $125,000 for four different infractions since October of this year. In recent interviews, Harrison has explained that the NFL is targeting him and he will continue to play the way he has always played, including his tackling style, regardless of the NFL's fine system.
Harrison's Steeler teammate Hines Ward has also stated recently that the league doesn't care about the players and that the new rules have only been established as part of the league's plan to extend the regular season to 18 games. Keeping the players more "healthy" in Ward's opinion would make it easier for the league to negotiate the extended season in the current labor agreement talks between the league and the NFL Players Association.
If players like Harrison and Ward wish to spend their time complaining about rule changes, it is well within their rights to do so, but at what cost? A professional athlete's attention should be on their job, which is playing the game to the best of their ability regardless of the rules they must adapt to. Adaptability is a sign of a true professional, and if Harrison and others would rather whine about rule changes then adapt to them, their performance will suffer accordingly.
The league is certainly not going to adapt to the players' wishes for the flow and safety of the game. They aren't required to.