Few Thrill in the NFL Like Tyreek Hill, or Make Us Feel So Uncomfortable

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 19, 2018

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill celebrates his touchdown during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

If watching Tyreek Hill both entertains you and makes you feel extremely uncomfortable, trust me, you're not alone. 

There are many of us who feel this way. We are fascinated, and troubled. We marvel at his abilities while simultaneously wincing over his past. We love watching him, but we also remember the horrible thing he did.

It's hard to watch Hill in a vacuum. He's not the first player to cross this threshold, and he won't be the last. He is the latest and also one of the great examples of how we sometimes compromise in watching the sport we love despite the fact it's covered in boils.

On the field, the Chiefs wide receiver is, in some ways, changing the position. Not since Randy Moss has the NFL seen a player who's almost impossible to cover.

Moss did his damage mostly vertically. Hill does it all over the field, and Kansas City coach Andy Reid knows it. Hill is employed in all manner of routes and plays within the Chiefs offense. It's as if Reid knows he has a star cruiser and is sending it to every possible star system.

Opponents know, too, and they can't help but marvel at Hill's speed, hands and route running.

Tyreek Hill has impressed coaches and opposing defensive backs alike with his ability to outrun and outmaneuver coverages all over the field.
Tyreek Hill has impressed coaches and opposing defensive backs alike with his ability to outrun and outmaneuver coverages all over the field.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

"Fastest guy I've ever covered," Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, a seventh-year veteran who made the Pro Bowl two years ago, told Dave Skretta of the Associated Press.

Patriots defensive back Duron Harmon felt the same way. "He's by far the fastest person I've ever come in contact with," Harmon told Skretta.

Hill has beaten every scheme. Every defense. Every player who has gone against him. So far, no one has stopped him. So far, it seems no one can.

That is one part of Tyreek Hill. The other, however, makes it hard not to squirm uncomfortably while watching him dominate.

Four years ago, when Hill was at Oklahoma State, he was accused of assaulting his pregnant girlfriend. She told police that Hill punched her in the face and stomach and choked her. Hill was kicked off the team and eventually pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation. His plea agreement required Hill  to serve three years of probation, attend anger management classes and a domestic violence intervention program.

Even in a league where teams and fans forgive the ugliest of crimes, the accusations against Hill were especially pernicious. They're also why he has become such a divisive figure.

When a Patriots fan threw a beer at Hill, social media was inundated with people saying Hill deserved it because of what he did to his pregnant girlfriend. Yet there is a large swath of fans who want to watch Hill for what he does on the field, who can't turn away from one of the game's most exciting players. Doesn't mean there isn't guilt that comes with watching, but watch we will.

While there are plenty of people in the NFL who share those conflicted feelings, if the draft started today and Hill was available, every team would pick him. They would hold their nose, make an excuse for his incredibly unforgivable act of violence, and pick him.

The NFL drafts bad guys. That's the way it is. That's the way it always will be. This is a league that picks domestic abusers, drunk drivers and all manner of scoundrels. But even the most cynical of NFL people are having a difficult time reckoning with a star accused of punching his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach.

The dilemma Hill presents won't go away anytime soon. Hill is fourth in receiving with 567 yards. Of the 20 fastest plays this year, Hill has four of them: a 58-yard catch-and-run score where he reached 21.95 mph; a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown (21.78), a 75-yard touchdown (21.31) and a five-yard run (21.11).

Like it or not, Hill is going to be a constant presence this season, which will force us to come to terms with what he represents each week. And while many believe there is no expiration date on physically attacking a woman, especially a pregnant one, there are those who feel that Hill paid his dues. (His conviction was dismissed in August this year after he completed the terms of his plea agreement.) He and the girlfriend he attacked have worked things out; the two are now reportedly engaged. So shut up and leave him alone, they say.

It's all confusing as hell.

And if you don't know what to make of it all, we feel you.

            

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.   

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