Recently, the NFL has claimed to be pushing for more and more "player safety."
Most players and anyone who is a fan of the game admit that player safety is important. No one wants to see a player carted off or a player who has severe brain damage at 50, but the method the NFL is taking is wrong and downright confusing.
I should start this off by stating that I am an old-school football fan. You give me a 9-6 defensive slug fest, and I am giddy with excitement. I had to turn the opening NFL game between the Packers and the Saints off, because that kind of football doesn't excite me.
Yes, I realize I am in the minority on that. But when the NFL keeps doing more and more to get rid of defense, it irritates me.
I do believe the NFL has the players in mind when making new rules, it's just hard for me to also not believe the NFL is trying to drive up scoring because that's what society wants.
The NFL is a business, and you give your consumers what they want. What NFL consumers want is high scoring and prolific offensive games.
I am even fine with that, if that's what you want to do, then do it! But be consistent with it. Watching the Steelers-Ravens game a few weeks ago and seeing Ray Lewis lead with his helmet and clearly hit Ward helmet to helmet with no flag was a little irritating.
The league is pushing to eliminate these plays, and is teaching the refs to throw the flag on this, but I understand it's a physical rivalry and they wanted to let them play.
Then the flag is thrown on Ryan Clark for a play that was, in my opinion, a great play that was less of a helmet to helmet hit and a less "defenseless" receiver then Hines Ward was.
That can't happen if the NFL wants to eliminate these hits and truly has player safety in mind. Ray Lewis was fined for the hit, as was Ryan Clark.
Now, I am not saying I agree with it. In my personal opinion, both plays were great plays and in no way violent, but the NFL says they are.
You can't let a player knock another player out of the game with a helmet-to-helmet hit and not flag him, then turn around and flag another similar play. That sends mixed messages, and only increases the rage defensive players and fans feel.
My dad used to tell me, "I don't care what you do, just be consistent."
That's my exact mentality with the NFL's new rules. I hate them, I don't agree with them, but if you are going to implement them, then be consistent with it.
It shouldn't feel like a flag might be thrown every time there is a big hit, there needs to be consistency. Right now it feels like the refs choose when they want to throw the flag.
Fines are one thing, sure Ray Lewis was fined for the hit on Hines Ward, but honestly $20,000 is not going to hurt Ray Lewis. On that play, Ray Lewis dislodged the ball from Hines Ward and forced the Steelers to kick a field goal—that result is more important to Ray Lewis.
On the flip side, Ryan Clark gets flagged and sets up a field goal at the end of the half that ended up being the deciding points. If Ray Lewis had been flagged and the Steelers had scored a touchdown, that result would stick more with Ray then a $20,000 fine.
The amount of helmet-to-helmet collisions will decrease severely if the NFL takes the time to get the refs to call it on a consistent basis. Making an impact on games will have a larger impact on players than taking money out of their enormous checks.
I don't work for the NFL and I have never been a ref, so I don't know what would be a good idea to help the consistency. I am sure the refs have seen video of hits that should be illegal, but this point needs to be driven home more or there will be no effect.
Why not allow for replay? The replays clearly showed Ray Lewis leading with his helmet hitting the crown of Hines Ward's helmet. Why couldn't the refs say "the pass was incomplete, but the replay shows the defensive player lead with his helmet which results in a 15 yard penalty and a first down."
I know it's a shady area and allowing for replay on penalties is an area that the NFL wants to stay away from, but the NFL needs to do something to increase the consistency in which these calls are being made.
I mean, after all isn't player safety the major goal in the NFL these days? Until these calls are enforced on a regular basis, the defensive players have no motivation other than their wallets—which are giant—to learn how to make a safe tackle.
So NFL I say to you as my dad said to me, I don't care what you do just be consistent.