NFL Headhunting -- The Party Is Over
Jack tatum: "The Assassin" would not approve
With many of life's problems, sometimes the issue isn't finding the solution, it's experiencing a trigger event that makes you put the solution into action (and 99 percent of the time, wondering why you hadn't done it a whole lot sooner).
Along those lines, like a drunk-driving arrest finally convincing an alcoholic to finally attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or an affair finally breaking up a marriage that should have been severed long before or the death of Tom Bosley finally bringing Chuck Cunningham out of his nearly four decades of hiding, the litany of guided missile, helmet-to-helmet shots in NFL games this past Sunday finally compelled the NFL to do what it should have done long ago -- announce that devastating helmet-to-helmet violence will result in suspensions.
There's no argument you can make that this is the wrong thing to do. None. So with that said, I have thoughts on the issue.
Let's first present the evidence that compelled the league to finally do what it should have done long ago, along with a rating on how dirty the play was. (Also, let's agree that heretofore, "helmet-to-helmet" will be referred to as "H2H". Too much typing.)
Brandon Merriweather's flying head butt on Todd Heap
Dirty Rating (1 to 10): 62
Comment: To me, this was the dirtiest of all the helmet-to-helmet plays. Merriweather involves himself in the play in a manner in which his helmet is literally the only way he could make the stop. It was stupid with respect to his own welfare, and reckless with respect to Heap's. In fact, the new scale for dirty H2H hits will now be known as the Merriweather Scale.
James Harrison's two hits, one on Mohammed Massaquoi and the other on Joshua Cribbs
Merriweather Rating (1 to 10): 9.3
Comment: I'm not sure if the hits themsleves offend me as much as Harrison's lack of contrition:
"If I get fined for that, it's going to be a travesty," Harrison said. "They didn't call [a penalty] on that. There's no way I could be fined for that. It was a good, clean, legit hit. ... I didn't hit that hard, to be honest with you. When you get a guy on the ground, it's a perfect tackle."
Dunta Robinson collides with DeSean Jackson
Merriweather Rating: 6.2
Comment: The cleanest of the three hits in question, this was more a case of Robinson's helmet winding up in the wrong place at a really high rate of speed than Robinson seeking out Jackson.
So armed with the evidence, here are a few of my thoughts on this issue:
1. On NBC's Sunday night football show, former
headhunter Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison had the following to say:
During the "Sunday Night Football" broadcast, he said "You didn't get my attention when you fined me five grand, 10 grand, 15 grand. You got my attention when I got suspended and I had to get away from my teammates, and I disappointed my teammates from not being there. But you have to suspend these guys. These guys are making millions of dollars."
That Harrison is the voice of reason on this topic shouldn't be all that surprising. While some point out the irony about Harrison, who totaled more than $200,000 in fines in his career, being so outspoken on the topic and its need for greater attention, I prefer to look at it like the movie The Rock. When the government needed to break into Alcatraz to thwart a domestic terrorist threat, they went into prison and plucked John Mason (Sean Connery), an Alcatraz escapee, to assist. In short, Harrison knows dirty play, its effects, and most importantly how much it is quietly tolerated/encouraged around the league.
2. This H2H issue and figuring out appropriate punishment is far more important than any other current issue around the league, including performance enhancing drugs. Legislating performance enhancers, while important, from a player safety/long-term health standpoint, involves making rules for a conscious choice by a player to put things that will eventually be detrimental into their bodies; conversely, DeSean Jackson didn't choose to get his head pulverized on a crossing route. Neither did Cribbs, Massaquoi, or Heap. On top of that, H2H hits are about the brain, which as organs go in terms of comprehending injuries is like Sanskrit compared to the King's English that is the rest of the human anatomy.
3. The league said that it would dish out suspensions on future hits and even take a look at the aforementioned hits from this past weekend for possible suspensions, but when time came to dole out the medicine, it looked like this -- Harrison $75,000, Merriweather $50,000, and Robinson $50,000. No suspensions. So my question would be, if you're going to outright say you were looking at this weekend's hits for possible suspensions, and you don't hand any down, what will it take to get suspended? If Merriweather going with the jumping Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka head-butt on Heap doesn't draw a suspension, than what will? And if you're not going to give out a suspension on those hits, why even imply that you might? While I'm happy about the announced vigilance, I'm still in wait-and-see mode on whether or not the league truly follows through.
So kudos to the league for doing the right thing. It only took four players nearly being turned into vegetables within the same three-hour period to get it done. Now if Chuck Cunningham would just come out of hiding, this will be a truly momentous week.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.