Hard Hits: Has the NFL Lost Focus?
By Derek X. Garcia '13, Staff Writer
It’s funny how we notice things when we look back at what we have done. My first column was titled “Feeling Concussed?” Now as I look back, I have to say: How freaking appropriate. In what has been a hard-hitting season (pun very much intended), the NFL has decided to start cracking down (I’m on a roll) on illegal tackles.

I’m not going to go into details about the situation, as the topic has been everywhere from ESPN to “The View.” So in a nutshell, the NFL will be coming down harder on players who tackle “defenseless” players in the head or neck area using their shoulders or leading with their helmets.

I am not in any way arguing against the NFL’s intent, which is to protect the players. Also, it’s not like the fines will cause a serious blow to players — ­remember, we are dealing with individuals with multi-million dollar contracts. Twenty thousand dollars, as much as it may seem, is a small drop in the can for these guys. I can even understand the suspensions for players who make a habit of delivering these types of hits.

What I cannot agree with is how the NFL is going about this situation. The point of this legislation is to prevent players’ injuries and, by proxy, concussions. However, the penalties are post-facto. If a defender hits a player illegally and causes a concussion, it’s not like $20,000 and a one-game suspension will cure the injured player. As a matter of fact, this new rule will only cause disruption and complaints from players (see James Harrison, Steelers).

I tend to agree with those who say it will deflate the game’s excitement. But let me be specific, I don’t think this rule will stop all hard tackles, (the NFL does a good job explaining what is legal: a hit centered on the chest area) but I do think it will cause defenders to be a bit more cautious when making tackles and thus we will see a slight change, if any.

As I mentioned earlier, this rule will not stop concussions. The problem here is the tackling. What needs to be done is more stringent teaching and coaching regarding tackling. The NFL needs to work with the Players Association and the coaches to develop better strategies to train defenders on how to make legal tackles (and still deliver a big hit, of course).

On the field, the rush of the game can cause players to misjudge tackles and cause injuries for both parties (à la Dunta Robinson and DeSean Jackson). Notwithstanding, I realize that this starts in high school — probably even earlier. These players are trained to win. Most of the time, to win is to hit the hardest. This mentality is supported throughout the system, and not just the NFL. I’m not criticizing it; it makes for one hell of a game for us fans. But, what needs to be done is to at least prepare players to deal with the pressures and emotions of a game early on in order to avoid losing focus and dislodging another player’s brain.

All this talk about concussions and hits has got me thinking. Why is the NFL only focusing on the defensive and offensive position (QB’s, RB’s, TE’s, WR’s) players? Why isn’t the NFL doing something about the offensive and defensive lineman who butt heads every single down? Why aren’t we seeing impassioned stories on ESPN right now about linemen out with concussions? Why aren’t we seeing developments or rules concerning the nature of play down in the trenches? Hasn’t anyone ever heard of Mike Webster?

If the NFL wants to combat helmet-to-helmet collisions, start with the place where it happens most. Let’s see more media coverage on players who have suffered brain trauma during their time playing football and their daily struggles. Why haven’t I seen Chris Berman or any analyst talk about the medical facts and points Malcolm Gladwell made a year ago in his article, “Offensive Play?”

And if taking on what many pundits have characterized as a problem inherent within the trenches proves too much, the fact remains that more attention should be called to promote developments like shock-absorbing helmets or pads to protect players. We can’t just focus on the safety for one set of players because that’s plainly unfair. The league has to look out for everyone and use each avenue it can to preserve the game and, most importantly, the health of its players.

Back by popular demand (aka my gracious editor hasn’t told me to take it down), and to celebrate the fact that Stan Van Gundy CAN wear mock turtlenecks, I will bring you another edition of “Third Down Description.” For those who don’t know what it is, I’ll just paraphrase what I wrote four weeks ago: “For those of you who didn’t get the chance to watch all the games or highlights this week — I did it for you. Notwithstanding, given that the news is inundated with superfluous and overtly descriptive accounts of each game, I have taken it upon myself to describe each game with no more than three words in a segment I like to call, “Third Down Description”” (Didn’t I say that already? ... Déjà-vu?)

Falcons vs. Bengals, 39-32: Talons beat claws.

Titans vs. Eagles, 37-19: Britt bags 225.

Bucs vs. Rams, 18-17: Really?

Steelers vs. Dolphins, 23-22: Refs blow it.

Chiefs vs. Jaguars, 42-20: Chiefs run wild.

Redskins vs. Bears, 17-14: Cutler can’t stand.

Panthers vs. 49ers, 23-20: Really? (I should stop this)

Ravens vs. Bills, 37-34: Ravens nearly lose (My fantasy team, on the other hand, with Mr. Fitzpatrick on the bench, was not as lucky.)

Browns vs. Saints, 30-17: REALLY? (Okay, that one deserved it)

Patriots vs. Chargers, 23-20: Turnovers ground Chargers.

Raiders vs. Broncos, 59-14: Davis is happy.

Seahawks vs. Cardinals, 22-10: Quarterback notably absent.

Packers vs. Vikings, 28-24: Rodgers avenges Pack.

Giants vs. Cowboys, 41-35: Romomentum no mo’.

Issue 07, Submitted 2010-10-27 17:01:11