Posted on: September 10, 2009 2:20 am

"Protect the Players" at the Expense of the Game?

As the fledgling 2009 football seasons roll on, I continue to hear more and more the phrase, "Emphasis on protecting the players." I don't think anyone is against protecting these young men. It is a universally frightening thing to see a limp form on the field after 21 of the players have cleared out. This being said, I also think they are playing football. American football is a series of collisions. Twenty-two finely tuned athletes, ranging from the Chargers' Darren Sproles (5'6", 181) to Langston Walker (6'8", 366) of the Bills and beyond, throw themselves at one another with the greatest strength and speed they can muster. And I feel fairly certain that every last one of the hundreds of players that have reached the lofty heights of the NFL, and the millions who hope to, is aware of this inherent aspect of the game. Their job, their livelihood, their chosen career path requires them to get over the innate desire of everyday people to avoid running into other people. In fact, it demands that they get quite good at running into and over other people who have the same thing in mind for them. All of this is simply to say that when a human body collides with another human body at a velocity well over that of a man-on-the-street, there is a chance that someone is going to get hurt. In football, "protecting the players" should not mean "keep them from playing football." The emphasis should not be on big hits, but on dirty hits, cheap-shots, head-hunting, and the like. Crushing collisions are not only a big part of football, they are also an awesome part of football. I'm glad horse-collars, clothes-lines, and their ilk are not allowed. But wide receivers who go across the middle are going to meet safeties, who REALLY don't want them to catch that pass. Running backs who go out in the flats may find a linebacker they didn't know was there. And quarterbacks who don't feel pressure may wind up with a defensive end where their thorax used to be. There isn't a player in any tackle-football league who isn't aware of this, and of the potential consequences. I would daresay that most dirty hits look dirty from the outset. But it is possible for a clean, legal hit to look dirty, too (see also: Georgia vs. Oklahoma State last week). Players should not be penalized for doing their job. Sure, throw the flag if you think the hit was illegal. But take the time to be sure it was illegal. We have cameras that can help. These calls are too big, and this game is too great, to do anything less.

Category: General
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