19 October 2010

Tuesday Football: This new NFL controversy isn't new

This gridiron weekend would have been horrible enough had its only incident been the errant tackle that left Rutgers University defensive tackle Eric LeGrand paralyzed below the neck on Saturday.  But then came Sunday and the brutal helmet-to-helmet hits taken by DeSean Jackson, Zack Follett, Joshua Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi and Todd Heap.  Only Follett avoided a concussion (though New Jersey hospital officials did observe him overnight).  Jackson is essentially out of next week's action; the others may not play, either.  [Best wishes to everyone on this list.]
On Sunday night, NBC commentator Rodney Harrison called for the NFL to start handing suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits.  Besides being the defender who unsuccessfully marked David Tyree's miraculous catch in Super Bowl XLII*, Harrison (wearing #37 at right) is remembered as one of the dirtiest defenders ever to play the game.  When even he's telling the NFL to suspend rough defenders, maybe the league should listen.  The good news is that the league is prepared to do just that, maybe even before this blog entry posts.

It's hardly the first time the issue of hat-to-hat hits has surfaced.  Since 1998, the league has imposed fines on such hits.  That sort of enforcement works on second- and third-string defenders, but first-stringers earn enough to render it ineffective.  Since 2007, the NFL has advised game officials to eject players in these cases -- but not one offender saw a red card yesterday.  This summer, the league and the NFL Players' Association considered formally outlawing helmet-to-helmet hits on ballcarriers, but didn't follow through.  Now, faced with this disastrous weekend, and surely aided by Harrison's nationally-televised recital of his own case, the NFL will finally follow the Canadian Football League's lead.

Here's what I'm wondering:  Is it just me, or have defenders just gotten meaner? There seems to be at least one concussion suffered every week, just in the NFL.  We're starting to see more players suffering concussions at the college level, too.  [Ryan Mallett, anyone?]  Maybe players and coaches should take another look at how tackles and hits are made these days.

*Picture by Barry Chin, via boston.com

Gates trips leaders.  And vice versa:  Of course, not all game-ending injuries come to the head or the spine.  San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, for example, caught two passes for 12 yards before hurting his toe in the Chargers' game at St. Louis.  The Chargers hope he'll be able to go next week against the Patriots, but it doesn't look likely right now.

Gates' foot issue affected both my games.  His injury, combined with a Miles Austin dud at Minnesota, consigned the Middlemen (4-2) to a 101-92 defeat at the hands of the Juken' Jockstraps.  Before suffering his concussion, DeSean Jackson offset an awful performance by the Atlanta defense.  Chris Johnson's touchdown last night came too late, as the Middlemen fell to second place.  With Jackson and (probably) Gates both out, next week promises a stern test for the bench.

On the other hand, the Gates exit suited the Fluttering Horde (5-1) just fine.  It crippled Anything But Last, which also suffered a 6-yard whiff from Giants wideout Hakeem Nicks.  Peyton Manning's 307-yard, two-touchdown performance (bo-ooo-ring!) put the Horde within 0.04 points of the lead going into the Monday-night game, and Titans kicker Rob Bironas kicked in the finish.  The Horde won, 108-88, knocked ABL from the ranks of the undefeated and took the division lead.  Next up: my other twin nephew and Osogood, to whom I traded Wes Welker.   So far, that trade hasn't hurt.

No comments: