Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Helmet-to-Helmet Hits Are Devastating for Everyone Involved

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

After this weekend’s NFL games and a slew of hard hits, the NFL and the media is ablaze.

Thanks to Brandon Meriweather, Dunta Robinson and James Harrison the NFL is changing their policy again. Effective starting this week, offenders of “devastating hits” and “head shots” will be suspended.

Many people have thrown their opinion into the ring, and it seemed liked everyone working at ESPN was brought on television today to talk about it. Many were upset. Matt Millen went on to say, “It’s the game. It’s the way the game is played.”

I’m sorry Mr. Millen, but the way Brandon Meriweather played and how Eric Smith played in 2008 is not how football is meant to be played.

Football is a violent sport, and I love hard hits as much as anyone. And some of the montages of hits ESPN showed on air today, especially during their “Outside the Lines” episode today, were perfectly legal. Just hard-knocks football.

But there were definitely hits that were uncalled for.

The helmet should not be used as a weapon. The head is not a battering ram. To see someone launch himself into an opponent like a torpedo, going head first, is unacceptable, not to mention fundamentally wrong.

When taught to hit, the technique is to lead with your shoulder into the chest and sternum of the players—around the numbers—and drive your body through him.

These are very big athletes playing at very high speeds. When a helmet is launched to another helmet, the head takes a tremendous amount of force and trauma, hence why we see concussions.

What people aren’t talking about is how leading with the helmet is not only dangerous for the offensive player taking the hit, but also for the tackler performing the hit.

A very sad story happened in college football this weekend. Rutgers defensive player Eric LeGrand went in to make a tackle on a kick returner and after putting the hit on him, he lay on the ground motionless from the neck down. He was taken to the hospital and has suffered a spinal cord injury, currently paralyzed below the neck.

When watching the play, it is clear, and extremely unfortunate, that LeGrand lead with his head and he took the full brunt of the hit.

Fundamentals are, or should be, taught not only for the most efficient play on the field, but to keep the players safe as possible, something extremely important in a violent sport where unfortunate things do happen occasionally.

Helmets are a good thing; I’m not saying the NFL should go back to the leather helmets from the olden days. That being said, it is a double-edge sword because there is the idea that you’re head is completely protected and it can be used in such a manner.

The devastating hits portion of the rule is ambiguous and taking things a little too far. But when a play like Meriweather’s leaping head-butt to Todd Heap happens that certainly is an issue and should be punished.

That isn’t how football is played, never was and never will be. Something needed to be done to eliminate these egregious helmet-to-helmet hits.

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