- Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final
- Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again
- FAA investigating fireworks drone flights
- Pentagon: We’ll give Obama a drone strike with al-Baghdadi’s name on it
- Marine in Mexican custody to get day in court after 101 days
- Senate OKs San Antonio mayor as housing secretary
- NFL star likely fooled by Marine impostor who accepted first-class plane ticket
- Sen. Ted Cruz tweets Obama directions from fundraisers to border towns
- Israel hits key Hamas targets in Gaza offensive
- Ten-year sentence for New Orleans’ Nagin on graft charges
SNYDER: Line blurs on legal, illegal hits in NFL
Question of the Day
In attempting to predict Russia’s role in World War II, Winston Churchill called it “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” I could say the same thing about finding a solution to the NFL’s safety problem.
But not Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations. Anderson seems to disagree with the degree of difficulty in reform. He suggests that players can change the nature of the game as easily as they change their clothes on game day.
Anderson appeared Tuesday on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike Show” — before Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed successfully appealed a one-game suspension for illegal hits — and argued that defensive players simply have to adjust their approach.
“The burden is on the defender to alter his target in situations like that, where a [receiver] is defenseless,” Anderson said. “Here’s the bottom line for us — hits to the head and neck area are potentially life-altering, as well as career-altering. We believe that, and we have enough to show us that. Illegal hits to the head and neck area are our biggest concern, and we are absolutely intent on getting those out of the game.”
It’s a noble and worthwhile goal, spurred by more information on concussions and more litigation on concussions. Regardless of the motivation, no one should be opposed to making the game safer. All you need is one look at the debilitating effects suffered by scores of former players.
Anderson accurately assesses the danger of blows to the head and neck area. He also correctly notes that fewer defenders attempt to wrap up ball carriers during tackles, opting instead for big, missile-launch hits. The threat of making helmet contact increases with that technique.
But it’s not always the defensive player’s fault.
Hits to the chest still are legal, a time-tested method of causing fumbles, breaking up passes and discouraging receivers venturing across the middle. Offensive players often are aware when a big boom is imminent. That can lead them to brace for impact and duck, putting their heads in the line of fire to catch blows intended for their chests.
Just like that, in the instant a defender calculates speeds and angles to determine the proper target area, a hit can go from legal to illegal. Expecting defensive players to adjust to last-second changes in their opponents’ pad level is almost unfair. The “head and neck area” isn’t always stationary, especially when players are running, cutting and trying to protect themselves.
That’s a valid point for defensive players who complain about the NFL’s recent crackdown on hits. But any argument that mentions the past has no place in the discussion. Reed acknowledges the need to make football safer, but also falls a bit into the history trap.
“We grew up watching the game be played a certain way and playing it a certain way,” he told the Baltimore Sun after handing out Thanksgiving meals. “It is tackle football. It is a contact sport and a brutal one, a violent one at that, the No. 1 violent sport, sad to say.
“I know concussions have been a big thing, he said. “I’ve had concussions before, and I know guys are going to have concussions. If you want to stop it, stop the game. Like people say, it’s starting to be a flag football thing.”
Hardly, but I understand his frustration. Unintended consequences of the new culture have appeared.
In Week 9 at FedEx Field, Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis received an unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting quarterback Robert Griffin III. RG3 still was in the field of play, but he was headed out of bounds.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Deron Snyder is an award-winning journalist and Washington Times sports columnist with more than 25 years of experience. He has worked at USA Today and his column was syndicated in Gannett’s 80-plus newspapers from 2000-2009, appearing in The Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star, The Detroit News and many others. Follow Deron on Twitter @DeronSnyder or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- SNYDER: Robert Griffin III worth his weight in bronze to Baylor
- SNYDER: Upon further review, MLB instant replay remains beholden to human element
- SNYDER: Musings on Bryce Harper, Tim Howard and more
- SNYDER: Turns out, Jurgen Klinsmann pushed the right buttons for U.S.
- SNYDER: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony make NBA offseason worth watching
Latest Blog Entries
By Ted Cruz
Banning speech with a constitutional amendment is playing with fire
- GOP: Lerner warned IRS employees to hide information from Congress
- White House plans for bowling alley upgrades abruptly canceled
- GORDON: Russia plays its own game away from the World Cup
- ISTOOK: Flying illegals home would be 99.5 percent cheaper than Obamas plan
- Colorado man offers Obama a toke of marijuana a Rocky Mountain 'high'
- Obama requests $3.7 billion to fight surge of illegals
- Facebook allows 'Kill Kendall Jones' page, but deletes her game hunting photos
- EDITORIAL: Whats Obama hiding at illegal-alien 'refugee' camps?
- Malaysian MP not sorry for tweeting 'long live Hitler' after Germany win
- Islamic militants aim to take Baghdad airport
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq
World Cup's sexiest WAGs
U.S.-Ghana World Cup opener