View Full Version : Will new, softer NFL be a hit?

10-24-2010, 09:51 AM
Will new, softer NFL be a hit?
Sunday, October 24, 2010
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Forget about the betting line for the Steelers-Miami Dolphins game today and the over/under for the total points scored. That is so old school. There's a whole new world of NFL gambling out there. I'm setting the important number for today's game at 1.5.

You know, the over/under for the combined number of Steelers and Dolphins who will be suspended for hits the NFL office feels are egregious and elevated.

What? You think I'm kidding? I'm just being real.

It's hard to sit here and say that Steelers linebacker James Harrison is a lock to play against the New Orleans Saints next Sunday. He has promised to play the game today the only way he knows how despite being fined $75,000 for a hit to the head last Sunday of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. You can bet the NFL office, which has threatened to start suspending players for such hits beginning today, will be watching Harrison's every step as he lines up Dolphins. He made sure of that scrutiny by explaining after the Browns game that, although he never tries to injure anyone, he sure does love to hurt 'em. They were not amused at league headquarters.

Then, there's Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder. "If I get a chance to knock somebody out, I'm going to knock them out and take what they give me," he said last week. "They give me a helmet, I'm going to use it." Smart, huh? You would think Crowder's daddy, Randy, the former Farrell High School and Penn State star, raised him to use his head a little more constructively.

That over/under number of 1.5 might be on the light side.

Not to be cynical.

Hey, I feel the players' pain. Not literally, of course. Figuratively. The players long have been taught that football is a tough game played by tough people. Defensive players have been taught to kick the man's butt across from him and separate the running back or receiver from the ball. The best way to do that is with a blow-up hit. Hits that have been celebrated on NFL videos for years. Hits that still are celebrated at Heinz Field when they play the "Renegade" song. Hits that earned Harrison, just as an example, two Steelers MVP awards, an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, the adulation of Steelers Nation and a $51.175 million contract.

Now the league is taking 75 large from Harrison because of a hit he thinks was legal, his coach says was legal and his team president says was legal?

Who wouldn't be honked off?

But Harrison can't win this fight. No player can. The NFL is stronger than all of the players combined.

Really, do you think anyone at the league office would have blinked if Harrison had decided his principles were worth more than the $51.175 million and retired last week?

In a way, maybe the players should thank the NFL for trying to save them from themselves. They say they know the risks of their job, but I don't know that they realize the brain disease, dementia and early death that might be ahead of them. The hits in football today are more brutal and destructive than ever because the players are bigger, stronger and faster because of modern training methods and, yes, chemical enhancement. In many cases, those hits are unavoidable.

But don't hurt your arm patting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners on the back too much. They can't be that interested in players' safety if they are pushing an 18-game schedule. Sure, they don't want to see someone die on the field. But their prime motivation is their concern about who's going to pay the long-term medical costs for their brain-rattled players.

Again, not to be cynical.

That's why there will be no turning back by the NFL from its get-tough policy on hits to the head. There will be suspensions today and in the days ahead until the players find a way to adjust. And they eventually will adjust if enough are suspended or even fined, just as they adjusted to the new rules to protect quarterbacks.

In the meantime, though ...

Steelers president Art Rooney II expressed concerns about "where this is going" and "the quality of the game" in an interview with the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette last week.

Those are legitimate concerns.

How are the players going to deal with this? Will there be more shots to the knees of offensive players because tacklers are afraid to hit high and risk a suspension? Will there be more touchdowns because receivers run by defenders who are waiting to make sure those receivers aren't defenseless before they tackle them?

How will the officials react? The NFL said it would punish those officials who failed to call a penalty on Harrison's hit on Massaquoi. Will those same officials throw a flag on every questionable hit now?

How will the league office proceed? The players swear they don't know what's a legal hit and what isn't anymore. Will the league treat deliberate helmet-to-helmet hits such as that by New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather on Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap last Sunday the same as it treats unavoidable collisions such as Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson's hit on Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson a week ago? If it does, is it possible that a team will be without two or three of its suspended defenders in the same game?

Maybe most of all, how are the fans going to take to the new NFL? They've made professional football this country's most popular sport. The No. 1 reason is the betting on the games. No. 2 is the violence. A lot of people love to see the big hits, the harder, the better.

You think Harrison and the players are in for a big adjustment?

We all are.
Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. More articles by this author
First published on October 24, 2010 at 12:00 am

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10297/1097643-87.stm#ixzz13EGhsz5L

Stu Pidasso
10-24-2010, 10:01 AM
GREAT article. I've been saying these points all week, and the people I talk to say I'm a conspiract theorist. I'm glad someone else thinks like me out there.

And I am really scared for the Dolphins today.

10-24-2010, 04:09 PM
I saw the Ravens D pass on two hits because of this mandate. That was pretty surprising to see.