From Toughness to Cowardice: Are NFL Players Weaker in Today's Era?

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - JANUARY 17:  Percy Harvin #12 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on before playing against the Dallas Cowboys during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on January 17, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Being a Green Bay Packer fan, I have experienced many things in my years of loyalty toward the green and gold.

For one, I've experienced watching seemingly crazy people stand shirtless in Lambeau Field during the frigid months that are December and January as they attempt to show their loyalty to their favorite franchise.

But aside from those lunatics that we all love to call "die-hard fans," the one thing that I have always taken pride in is saying that the Packers are one of the toughest teams in all of football.

Don't get me wrong, there are many other equally, if not tougher teams in the history of NFL

Firstly, the Chicago Bears come to mind, during their dominant 1970s to 1980s period.  And of course, who could forget the Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" era, that saw the likes of some of the most brutish defenders the league has ever seen to date.

However, when it comes to today's modern game, some things seem to lack a little. 

No, I'm not talking about the loss of John Madden's voice on the weekly edition of Monday Night Football games, I'm talking about the "tough as nails" attitude that has been more or less sucked bone dry right out of the league, and replaced with an attitude that would have Vince Lombardi cursing in his grave right now.

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For those who are still unaware what I'm talking about, I am referencing the NFL's new found "sissy" attitude that some fans have become to tolerate as the game evolves.

Recently, this debate has popped up in the media a little, mostly due to the amount of injuries that seem to plague the league like a swarm of locusts year in and year out.

When I first became an NFL fan, this story was only beginning to develop.  Brett Favre was still a Packer, Terrell Owens was still an Eagle, and Tom Brady was still years away from what some may call a career changing knee injury in 2008.

But as time went on, so did the lack of interest in this overall disappointing story.  I guess realistically, the debate of whether or not the NFL is becoming a coward's league is a bit like what the steroid era is to baseball.  Nobody really cares, and if they do, they care for about a millisecond when PTI discuss it on ESPN.

Therefore, the NFL's coward problems have gone out the window.  At the same time though, something else has flown back in, and it now leaves the NFL with serious problems at the present time.

The first obvious example comes from a man I just mentioned, Tom Brady.  While I'm not trying to throw Tom Brady under the bus here at all, when he did go down with a devastating season ending knee injury in 2008, along with it came a new rule implemented from Roger Goodell.

Yes that's right, the ability to tackle from the ground was immediately cut from the rule book.

Why? I hear you ask, well it's simple: Roger Goodell didn't want an excessive amount of players being injured each and every season. Nor did he want star players such as Tom Brady costing the game marketing money, due to him being injured the entire season with a torn ACL or something of that caliber.

For some NFL fans, these new rule changes were a welcome change.  Some may argue that it cleans the game up a bit, and limits any potentially dangerous situations.

Maybe it's just the old school Packer fan coming from within, but don't these new rule changes make the game well...a little boring?  You tell me.

Now to the second point, the overall lack of toughness. 

After recently browsing through ESPN.com, I stumbled upon a few interesting running back facts that more or less prompted this article. 

For those Walter Payton fans among us, most of you would recall ol' No. 34 playing a game or two while he was immensely sick with the flu.

What does this leave for today's standards?  Once again I hate to seem like I am throwing anybody under the bus, but when we look at Percy Harvin missing a handful of games due to a migraine, some concern does arise for the leagues future.

Those of you reading this that may somehow think I am targeting players—I'm not.  I'm merely trying to highlight a problem in the game that we all love so dearly.

It's a problem that could be easily resolved, and at the end of the day there are still several players that wear their hearts on their sleeve day in and day out.  If it isn't Dwight Freeney playing in the Super Bowl with a sore ankle, it's Brett Favre playing overtime with a sore shoulder.

Gone are the old days of Joe Theisman's combustible leg and Emmitt Smith's will to push past his shoulder injury, and we arrive in a time of almost over-dramatic players who wish to take several weeks off for the smallest injuries or off field dramas.

Maybe the word "weaker" isn't the best selection of wording; after all, we have all seen just how much today's player can bench press.  But when it comes to toughness, a lot is left to be desired.

To use an old saying wisely, "It isn't the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

There's no doubt a lot of fight in NFL players, but now is the time for some old school toughness to shine brightly from America's No. 1 sporting league.

Ryan Cook is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report . He is also an NFL columnist for Real Sports Net and a Green Bay Packers writer for Fan Huddle and PackerChatters . Don't forget to follow him on Twitter .


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