I just have to write something about this. This week in the NFL there were unprecedented fines handed out for "illegal hits" to offensive players. The fines were absolutely outrageous and in some cases unwarranted. The three fines handed out totaled $175,000 dollars. Of the three I only saw one that should have been deemed illegal. But if the current criteria were handed down to the NCAA players, I would have to ask myself, "How much scholarship money would Andrew Rich have to give up for some of his vicious hits?" I don't think Andrew Rich makes dirty hits, just like I don't think the fines against Dunta Robinson and James Harrison were fair. But the reality is that the NFL is trying to change the way the game is taught and played, and that will impact college and high school in the very near future.
What I don't like about these changes to the rules in place in place in the NFL is that they are becoming more and more one sided. Kind of like a LB getting flagged for a face mask, but a RB can (or at least it never gets called) stiff arm a defender right in the face mask without incident.
What I want to do is break down the video that was release by the NFL to illustrate what warrants an illegal/fine-able hit to the head.
Take a look at this video from the NFL to its players. Now think about this:
Sherrod Martin (Carolina Panthers) on Kevin Boss (New York Giants) @ 0:30
Boss is falling, and I guess you could say shouldn't have been hit at all? But Martin's hit is not intentionally going for his head, nor does it look that violent. Kind of one of those hits that just gets you in the right place. No doubt it was in the head, but it was not intentionally leading with or attacking the head. I like the narrator's comment that players should be responsible for what they hit, but it's not that easy when you are at full speed (more on this later).
Kendrick Lewis (Kansas City Chiefs) on Evan Moore (Cleveland Browns) @ 0:44
Blatant going for the head. Good call on this one. As noted by all the flags that come in. The TE is running fully erect and the DB makes no attempt to hit him any lower than the head. This should be stopped!
T.J. Ward (Cleveland Browns) on Jordan Shipley (Cincinnati Bengals) @ 1:04
same as above.
Dunta Robinson (Atlanta Falcons) on DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia Eagles) @ 1:14
This is a great play! And he got dinged $50 grand for it. The narrator makes the comment that "The receiver is defenseless in the act of attempting to catch a pass." Um...isn't that the point of hitting the receiver? So he doesn't make the play? He then says "using the head, forearm or shoulder to initiate the hit against a defenseless player will draw significant discipline." OK so what are they supposed to hit with? Chest bump? The fundamentals of tackling say put your shoulder in the offensive players chest! Only the head should be mentioned there.
James Harrison (Pittsburgh Steelers) on Mohamed Massaquoi (Cleveland Browns) @ 1:40
This hit and the one by Robinson show that it is tough to adjust last minute at full speed. When an offensive player is running at you full speed, they will drop their head and shoulders to brace for impact. As we all would do when about to get hit. So if the defensive player is aiming at the chest of the ball carrier, and he drops his head, how are you supposed to react to that? You can't!
Brandon Meriweather (New England Patriots) on Todd Heap (Baltimore Ravens) @ 1:50
Clearly intentionally at the head and should be fined! Once again the TE is fully stretched out and Meriweather jumps to his head instead of hitting him in the body or taking out his legs.
Earl Bennett (Chicago Bears) on John Ryan (Seattle Seahawks) @ 2:22
Are you telling me that this is any more legal than the hit by Robinson? You don't think a blindside hit is hitting a defenseless player attempting to make a play? He lead with his shoulder...that was mentioned as a no no up top. Narrator says "Avoids blowing the player up." I say, that punter got blown up. Did you see him in the air?
Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens) on Dustin Keller (New York Jets) @ 2:47
The only difference between this and the Harrison hit is that Keller did not have a chance to brace for impact. So Lewis' hit was still on an exposed chest.
I think I have shown enough to get my point across. I am all for protecting players and limiting hits to the head. But some things are impossible to avoid. I think the league needs to do a better job of determining the intent of the hit. I am sure that the heavy fines this last weekend were mainly a scare tactic to promote a quick change, but you still need to have some probable cause for the fines.
It is nearly impossible to hit a QB anymore without getting a flag or a fine. Now the same is going to happen when you hit TE's and WR's. I love the comment I heard on ESPN the other night...
Why don't we just put flags around everyone's waist and call this the National Flag Football League?