View Full Version : Junker: Violence makes NFL what it is

10-25-2010, 12:10 AM
Junker: Violence makes NFL what it is
By Guy Junker
Monday, October 25, 2010

What do you suppose James Harrison would do if he retired? In case you wondered, he majored in general studies at Kent State. Not that retiring was ever a real possibility, the threat did give him a day off of practice last week. And football fans have to be on his side. You don't watch the game to see quarterbacks slide for a first down or running backs tip toe out of bounds. You watch it for the violence that would be illegal on the street. What makes football great is the poetry of motion that can be as nimble as ballet, juxtaposed with the ferocity of a freight train hitting a stalled car at a crossing. Neither of Harrison's two hits in the Cleveland game a week ago were flagged on the field and both he and his coach vouched for their legality after the game. The NFL took quite a beating from those two hits and plenty more in a nightmarish public relations weekend around the league. So fines were handed out and Harrison's just happened to be the most expensive at 75 grand. I'd be unhappy if I were in his position too. Plays like that helped make him the NFL's Defensive Player Of The Year and a Super Bowl hero.

Still, the league has to worry about concussions and other brain trauma that seems to be more and more associated with those who played the pro game. But it is easy to see how it is also caught between a rock and hard place when it comes to policing the games most violent behavior. What makes it dangerous is what makes it popular and it's a delicate balance. They are fining players for hits while selling photos and DVD's of those hits at the same time. If the game continues to evolve with changes being made based on limiting the possibility of injury, it will lose some of it's attractiveness.

Thanks in part to the Steelers of the 70's, the pro game has become increasingly difficult through the years to play, especially defensively as almost all rule changes are designed to encourage scoring and protect players. But asking players in mid leap to not hit a receiver until he has a chance to protect himself, or to avoid hitting a quarterback too high or too low, are decisions made by people who have never played the game. It operates at warp speed and thinking about those possibilities in the midst of reacting instinctively as players have been taught and drilled for years is asking the impossible. And while it won't become flag football as every lazy analyst predicts at times like this, it will be a different game. It already is. Watch raw footage from an NFL game in he early seventies and compare it to now. It's almost two different sports.

I've heard several old timers suggest that removing the face masks from the helmets would at least keep players from leading with them and using the helmet as a weapon. Good idea but it's not going to happen. Perhaps they could eliminate shields and keep the masks to one vertical and 1 horizontal bar. It would add some protection but not so much that a player wouldn't think twice about going head first. Still it's a strange notion that to better protect players, you need to remove some protection. A better idea yet, would be to make it mandatory that all players wear mouth pieces Talk to any dentist about the amount of concussions that could be eliminated if the jaws were kept from snapping together. Harrison wears one. Everyone should.

That wouldn't solve all the problems. Nothing will. Its a rough game played by enormous people who are very fast. Injuries will continue to happen. Use the equipment available to help, and use common sense in suspending and fining players. Harrison's hits last week were not fineable offenses. Brandon Meriweather's was. It shouldn't matter if there were five reviewable plays or none in a given week.

We used to play a game as kids called "kill the man with the ball". That probably wouldn't go over so well today. I recall one broken arm and a few stitches but we all lived through it and we sure had fun playing it. Thank goodness James Harrison didn't grow up in our neighborhood though.

Guy Junker can be reached at guy@gopgh.com or .

10-25-2010, 12:18 AM
[We used to play a game as kids called "kill the man with the ball". That probably wouldn't go over so well today.

We called it "Smear The Queer" (with the football).

The pussification of everything in America is really beginning to urk me.

10-25-2010, 05:39 PM
We called it "Smear The Queer" (with the football).

The pussification of everything in America is really beginning to urk me.

Agreed. All of the hits this week in all the games were sorry... that and I did see plenty of players go to the sidelines for guess what... knee injuries! Come on now. They say its a legality issue so i found a way to resolve it. All football contracts can say that "they are taking a risk they they knowlingly and willingly assume when they play football for the NFL." How hard is that?