Roger Goodell: James Harrison, Where Is Your Head?

Steve MihlfContributor IOctober 22, 2010

Do I really have to explain why concussions are unhealthy?
Do I really have to explain why concussions are unhealthy?Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Roger Goodell is an intelligent man and was right. 

James Harrison's comments were simplistic and idiotic at best.

Two simple statements, two simple facts.

Harrison complains about not being able to play the game that he's been taught since being 10 years old.  He's currently contemplating retirement b/c if he can't "hurt" people, he doesn't want to play football anymore.  I'm sorry James, if you want to hurt people get into boxing or MMA. 

I have no doubt that Harrison and other current NFL players are tough, but some, I believe have "popcorn muscles", to borrow a term from Joey Porter.  Would you like to guess why seemingly all defensive players are the ones arguing the league is getting too soft?  It's because they're the ones rarely hurt.  They're the ones who get to see the play being formed and make the high-impact tackles, and blind side hits.  Ask Desean Jackson, who's career must be in jeopardy after sustaining two concussions in less than two years, how he feels.  Ask Todd Heap who took not one, but two, helmet-to-helmet hits in one game. 

You may argue that's tackling.  No, tackling quite simply is more or less using your shoulders and arms to either wrap up or make a "tackling" motion.  No where in the definition does it say to lead with your head/helmet. 

Chew on this:  Do you realize that many of these tackles have an MINIMUM force impact of 30-60 G's?  Throw in the additional impact of a shoulder pad or helmet to the equation and it's well over 100 (the measured level for concussions).  By comparison jet fighter pilots are taught to withstand 9 G's of force.  Now you start to get the picture why there's a need to protect the players in the NFL.  It's near inhumane not to.

Some of these men only have the game of football to look forward to for the rest of their lives.  Once the game is over, they'll have nothing left to do or accomplish.  These are the same ones who recklessly go for the helmet-to-helmet collisions, without any knowledge of the effects it has on both themselves and the opposition, for the rest of their lives.

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Some of the players would actually like to be able to pick up their kids once they retire, maybe join the political realm, or be able to think critically.  Is this really their fault?  No, because you see the way THEY were taught how to play football was to tackle, not aim to hurt or injure.  

Harrison openly admitted he tries to hurt people.  These are the most ridiculous comments I've heard from any all-pro player.  Looking back, one shouldn't be too surprised.  These comments came from a man who barely graduated high school and did not receive offers from any Division I school, based on his grades.  If it wasn't for his genetical make-up, to be able to gain so much muscle mass. one has to wonder what he'd be doing in life.  

Do you realize why the NFL is taking the steps they are?  It's not because Roger Goodell is on some sort of power trip.  He's actually improving the league and saving them money.  Do you believe running a company (which the NFL is) that has seen the number of concussions increase tenfold is a good business?  It's both terrible for business and human nature.  Hey, if you'd like to play in the hard hitting NFL, don't come crying when you're 40 years old, in a wheel-chair and can't even feed yourselves.  You signed up for it and were paid millions for it.  I won't shed a tear or a dime and neither should Goodell.  

I don't blame the NFL either.  Mark Schlereth (former Broncos lineman) complained recently on ESPN about the league not giving him disability benefits because of all the injuries he's sustained during his playing days.  Well Mark, you knew what you were getting into and were paid millions of dollars.  It's called financial planning.  They still provide retirement benefits to players, why don't you utilize some sort of budgeting to pay your medical bills like the millions of other Americans.

Something needed to change and Commissioner Goodell is taking the right steps to do so.  The NFL reports nearly 175 concussions per year.  That's over 12% of your population receiving concussions.  Take away kickers, punters, and many special team players and that percentage is more likely closer to 15-18%.  In addition, after one concussion, the player is 4 to 6 times more likely to sustain a second.

Remember, all these stats are reported concussions.  This undoubtedly would not include Grade 1 concussions, which players who play "tough" won't report to coaches and trainers.  Why you ask?  Under current guidelines if they report concussion-related symptoms, the player must sit out that week of play for evaluation purposes.  They (players) don't want to give up their future health, in order to play now.  Much like, when Hines Ward questioned Big Ben's "toughness" for not getting right back into play after sustaining a concussion.  His comments were similar to Harrison's in being completely idiotic.

To all the former players turned analysts out there who are jumping on this issue to complain it's not how they played, your comments are asinine.  You are only saying this because you were one of the lucky few who didn't suffer long term effects.  Go ask someone like Troy Aikman or Steve Young, who's careers were cut short because of such hits.  Ask them if they played in the current league format, and their career would have been lengthened by several years, would they take it.  You're damn right they would.   

The one former player I do agree with is Mike Ditka.  Coach made some great points by alluding to players should have to play without the sophisticated padding currently utilized.  This way they'd actually learn how to tackle.  Look at old NFL films, there were very few players who made these "defenseless" tackles.  Those who did were labeled "dirty" players.  Nowadays, the majority of players tackle this way, b/c they want to make the highlight reel or get props for "killing" that guy over the middle. 

Let's see how these same defenders would fare with older helmets.  Hell, let's go back to the leather helmets and see these linebackers and cornerbacks try to lay out receivers.  If they knew their head and brain may be affected as much, I would be willing to bet there'd be a decrease in such crippling hits.

It's no longer about winning, its about the highlights and hurting people like James Harrison stated.

The NFL gets many things wrong, such as the end-zone celebrations, but this is one issue in which they're absolutely right.  They are trying to take care of the current crop of players and improve the league for the future.  For every one player who stops playing b/c he can't actually tackle, one more young male will get his chance to play properly.  Play the way it's supposed to be played and it can still be hard-hitting.  Concussions will always exist in such a sport, but the risk will be greatly decreased.  The Commissioner and the NFLPA have an obligation to do what's best for the players. 

Don't blame Goodell, blame those players who deem the league is getting too "soft', one has to wonder where their head is it.  If they haven't lost their mind yet, they will soon enough by playing this style of football.


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