For the past week we’ve seen plenty of pink in the NFL to raise awareness for cancer, but we’ve also seen the in the last week some of the most reckless hits leading to several head injuries and concussions. But isn’t that what the NFL is all about? Wasn’t devastating hits the bread and butter of the NFL? Aside from the countless numbers on gamblers who enjoy wagering on the NFL every week, isn’t the stronger, faster, bone crushing explosions what make the NFL a product in a league of its own? Perhaps all that pink has softened up the league’s stance.
Following a weekend that saw DeSean Jackson nearly get his mind separated from his skull and Ravens tight end Todd Heap almost be-headed from a vicious hit from Meriweather, the NFL has fined three players substantial amounts, well, by our standards, for violent hits. The league is holding off on suspensions, (thank goodness!) but it is warning that suspensions will follow if violent-helmet to helmet hits on players in vulnerable positions continue.
I’m quite aware that the NFL is trying to protect its players and all that jazz, but there’s a fine line between protecting the players and ruining the league. If they really wanted to protect their players then how does a two game increase to an 18 game schedule help that cause? Seriously. Perhaps this is more about making sure owners get more value out of their key guys offensive guys, who aren’t much good when they heads are filled with mush. I get that. But like I said there’s a fine line.
Look at the NHL today. The NHL grappled with the same problem with violent hits and I’m not sure they’ve got it right. Suspensions become arbitrary as decision makers have to determine the intent of players and check repeated offenders and so on so forth, it becomes a mess. Hockey is a fast game, maybe the fastest. Hitting is allowed. Whether you like it or not, someone is going to get their bell rung from time to time and no fines or suspensions are going to change that. How do you tell a defense man that he should take it easy on a guy skating through the neutral zone with his head down as he dangles with the puck in his skates? If they want it out of the game then they are going to have to change the game, which it appears they might be doing. The NFL is heading down the same path and if they plan on changing the game, they should consider the impact it may have on their fan base, one that makes the NFL the number watched show on TV week in week out.
I wonder what a player who makes a living on making a hard hits feels about possibly being suspended for making a big play for his team. It’s a complicated issue and one that I think the NFL is rushing in too quickly to police. I don’t like seeing players hurt, but I think the players and fans understand that its just a part of the game. If they can find a way to change that without ruining the game, great. But suspensions and fines for players making plays doesn’t sound like the answer.