The NFL cycles through hot-button issues on a week-by-week basis, and this week, the league’s new policy regarding dangerous hits has everyone talking, and continues to pick up steam. That being said, I think it’s important to say at least one more thing about it:
I’m not saying these rules are perfect, and obviously I understand that this is a violent game, but football was never a game intended to be as life-altering as what constant head injuries can do to a person. Great defense in the NFL isn’t about “jacking someone up”, though that is now the trend in the league and in the minds of fans. Great defense involves textbook tackling. You want to talk about knocking the ball loose, but what achieves that better than a good tackle that hits a guy in the midsection, where the ball is? Oh, right, a hit that knocks a guy unconscious.
Players who wonder about how this affects their game are simply posturing. These rules shouldn’t do anything to a player who knows how to tackle. What people don’t seem to understand is that a helmet is meant for a player’s protection, not so it can be used as an actual weapon. Players now seem to think, and they’re right, that hitting a guy in the shoulders and above will knock the ball loose easier, but it is now coming at the expense of the the offensive player.
I’m not just singling out James Harrison here. The same would go for T.J. Ward. I think guys would get the message if there was a consistent method of administering penalties on these types of plays. Ward was penalized, yet Harrison was not for two head-injuring hits. It is up to the officials to get this right, more so than the league.
It’s obviously not right that the league profits on these types of hits, and that is also something that needs to be fixed if the league truly wants this resolved, but this new policy is a step in the right direction. The game is faster and the players are stronger, but that doesn’t mean players’ lives have to be at stake. I enjoy the violent nature of this game as much as the next guy, and normally I’m against rules that take away from that (i.e. just about every rule that favors the quarterback), but it’s hard for me to understand why more people can’t get behind this one.