Home > Around The NFL > Is The End Near? – “Devastating Hits” No Longer Allowed In The NFL

Is The End Near? – “Devastating Hits” No Longer Allowed In The NFL

Yes, the internets and ESPN/NFL Network, etc. have been abuzz since Sunday night about some of the vicious (but legal except for one) hits that were seen on WR’s and RB’s on the field in Week 6. The NFL, being as reactionary as ever, sent out a press statement on Monday night to the effect that all “devastating hits” will be met with suspension and fines. is this the most ridiculous thing the NFL had ever done? Is this the beginning of the end of the NFL as we know it? It all depends on what exactly a “devastating hit” is and how exactly it will be enforced. Let’s first take a quick look at the plays that have gotten some in the media in a tizzy and why, as always, the media has been completely irresponsible in starting this wildfire –

– Falcons defender Dunta Robinson lays into Eagles WR DeSean Jackson with a 100% legal hit. Robinson hits Jackson in the chest clearly leading with his shoulder. The result? $50,000 fine for Robinson.

– Next up is James Harrison. On a shallow crossing route, rookie QB Colt McCoy leaves Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi out to dry as Harrison comes in and lays a vicious, but here’s the keyword, LEGAL, hit on Massaquoi, knocking him out of the game. It may look on initial viewing that Harrison spears Massaquoi with his helmet, but that’s not the case. Harrison hits Massaquoi with his shoulder and forearm. At the time of impact Massaquoi is sliding lower to the ground, thus making the impact roughly around the shoulder and helmet area but there was clearly no helmet to helmet contact. The Result? $75,000 fine.

– Patriots DB Brandon Merriweather actually does lead with his helmet and launches himself right into Ravens TE Todd Heap on a seam route in the Pats-Ravens game. That is clearly an illegal play and Merriweather was fined $50,000.

– The problem with these fines and the NFL’s new efforts in legislating hits is simply this – it’s unrealistic to expect defenders to do what the NFL seems to be asking them to do. These plays move so fast and the defenders react so quickly that it’s simply impossible to ask defenders to suddenly in the span of less than a second somehow change the hit they are going to deliver. So many factors, all in split seconds, go into the tackle, what the ballcarrier does – does he lower his shoulder? Expose his body? Lead with HIS helmet? The NFL can’t even define what a “devastating hit” is, not that it would really matter, it’s ridiculous any way you want to look at it. I’ve read a number of posts from other NFL fans stating “these players aren’t using correct technique in tackling these WR’s”. Again, impossible, unless we want defenders to lay back until the pass is caught and then attempt an arm tackle around the waist. The end result of that will be a broken or missed tackle in the open field and more yards for the WR or RB nine times out of ten.

– The rules today in the NFL already heavily favor offenses, what these fines and the comments from the front office say is “back off even more defenders”. It’s absurd and ridiculous. On ESPN, the voice of reason was actually Mike Ditka and Matt Millen (what the hell?) who stated that it’s impossible to label what a “devastating hit” even is and more importantly to ask defenders to drastically change the way they play the game is not feasible. And that’s the bottomline really, defenders and players are not going to drastically change the way they play (they have, however, adjusted to make sure less direct helmet to helmet hits occur). Player safety should be emphasized but not to the point that it drastically alters the game. Like I said, most agree that the Merriweather hit was illegal, fine him, even suspend him but the other hits? Simply hard hits that unfortunately resulted in injuries. It’s the NFL, injuries happen every weekend. If NFL owners are that freaked out over possible injuries to players (investments) to the point of radically changing the way the game is played, my advice to them would be to find another business or sport to invest in.

– One thing no one seems to be talking about in relation to this is officials on a weekly basis calling phantom unnecessary roughness penalties, which in some instances are having a huge impact on the outcome of games. Why is no one in the press talking about this? This past weekend in the Jets-Broncos game, Jets safety Jim Leonard was called for unnecessary roughness on a CLEARLY legal hit where he purposely led with his shoulder. And that might be the most frustrating thing about this new emphasis on player safety – defenders understand it and are actually changing the way they hit players (Dunta Robinson leading with his shoulder, Harrison leading with his forearm and shoulder, Leonard leading with his shoulder) and ARE STILL being called for unnecessary roughness penalties. As a fan, it’s simply ruining the game. I don’t know about you but I like to see good defensive play once in a while. It’s clear that the NFL and the officials need to be more consistent, clear and fair with this new approach to player safety. Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope.

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