Saturday, October 23, 2010

NFL Needs To Protect Its League Before it's Too Late

So now, as if the scary trauma has barely created an everlasting debate, one discussion that has everyone fussing about hard blows to the head is that the NFL is refusing to ignore hamlet-to-hamlet hits. What they can do is set stricter barriers to eliminate the vicious, violent hits and finally realize the risk of players suffering concussions.

At last, the richest enterprise in sports has become medically aware of head injuries, a health issue that can risk long-term dangers to the brain. If an athlete suffers a concussion from a helmet-to-helmet blow, the league should respond proactively and levy suspensions to hard-hitting players who makes contact with opponents and sympathetically avoids a punishment after a brutal collision.

In theory, it should surprise no one that the NFL is contemplating whether or not a suspension will mitigate the head shots.

For a long time, this has been a heavy burden, and now that it is clearly evident in which fines aren’t enough to deter players from making nasty hits to the head, the league is closely evaluating the violent scenes, ready to enforce a harsher sanction.

Finally, the NFL is reacting to unnecessary violence and realizes players are sustaining serious injuries for dangerous hits or intentionally late shots.

Fair enough. The NFL, in a way, is compromising with the welfare of injured players, but the idea of possible suspensions doesn’t settle too well for some players. In fact, the latest fuss involving hits to the head is mandated in some ways, but viewed as an overreaction prior to three controversial incidents last Sunday. There has been much dialogue about brutality in football over the past week.

And before it is too late, the NFL must protect its league from tragedies, especially when the red flags are alarming and have shown signs of possible death. It’s not an issue the league can sugarcoat, but a common crisis that can quickly turn into a devastating scene if the NFL ignores the incidents and fails to address a perpetual dilemma.

At this very moment, it’s acceptable to assume that the league is considering suspending players for violent helmet-to-helmet hits. Earlier in the week, NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said he could impose harsher fines and possible suspensions immediately.

“It could happen immediately,” Anderson said of the hazardous hits after several players sustained concussions Sunday. “The level of discipline on those types of hits is going to be much more aggressive…and that could include a suspension even for a first-time offender.”

You heard that? No warnings.

By the abundance of concussions lately, the uncompassionate hits to the head finally have caught the league’s attention. So no longer is the league lagging on a controversial trend, willing to protect their players from suffering a blow to the head and limiting the staggering growth of head injuries.

Just as the Players Association and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell examines the possibilities of neck and head trauma and revisits a longtime concern, former safety Rodney Harrison and former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who can easily be the league’s peacemaker, now are football analysts for NBC and advocate suspensions for harmful hits.

“Fines aren’t getting it done,” Anderson said. “Suspensions will get their attention.”


Every way, that is, the NFL has informed its officiating crew to start ejecting players for flagrant helmet-to-helmet shots, a new policy that was plotted in a memo from supervisor of officials Mike Pereira. Over the years, there have been career-threatening injuries and deaths, and suddenly, the league is handling the issue with stricter measures.

Every player understands the risk factor, knowingly realizing that merciless hits are part of the game. It’s good to know that the NFL is fundamentally concerned with the health dangers of players, aiming to abate the number of helmets slamming into other helmets.

“Officials will be reminded this week to pay strict attention to these rules and disqualify the fouling player if the action is judged to be flagrant,” Pereira wrote in the memo. “Actions that involve flagrant helmet to helmet contact are the likely acts that will include disqualification. Our commissioner and this office remain very focused on the safety of players.”

In an era in which so many hits and collisions have threatened players’ careers or diagnosed star players with long-term health issues, the NFL is proactive in reacting to the tragic hits. More importantly, the NFL has implemented barriers governing to players who sustain vital blows to the head.

It was just over two weeks ago when a helmet-to-helmet hit that gave Houston quarterback Matt Schaub a concussion led to a $15,000 fine for San Diego cornerback Drayton Florence.

Few, if any, can recall the fine given to Washington safety LaRon Landry and will forfeit a game check of $16,764 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on New York Jets quarterback Kellen Clemens.

Prior to his disastrous shot, Landry had been fined $7,500 for a pair of unnecessary roughness penalties. It’s a ruling that has been long overdue for a league with intense and violent plays and will lessen life-threatening injuries.

If nothing else, imposing rules and suspensions isn’t the toughest issue to tackle, given that concussions are inevitable in game of collisions and perilous hits. The NFL recently has had to address a battered crisis involving the well-being of players to avoid the possibilities of career-threatening injuries or even deaths.

There have been nightmarish moments that we can recall. A few years ago, former Bills’ player Kevin Everett suffered a life-threatening spinal-cord injury, a crestfallen incident that saddened us all.

Years ago, the late Darryl Stingley, who was paralyzed for the rest of his life, was a depressing tragedy in the sport known as America’s pastime.

And now, the league is smart for suggesting a new protocol to reduce illegal hits on defenseless players, to constitute a rule to stop collisions and to lessen injuries by enforcing precise rules.

The league is most famous for enforcing rules, and since the league is losing players to injury, this would be a good time to address the issue. Ever since Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson delivered a vicious shot to DeSean Jackson, the images are clearly a reality check for the NFL. All on the same day, a fine was given to New England free safety Brandon Meriweather for his hits on Baltimore’s tight end Todd Heap.

And in comparison, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison had a pair of hard hits and nearly beheaded Cleveland receiver Josh Cribbs on a play. Seen as a defensive assassin, he has been known for making hard hits and unluckily was handed a fine for his shot on Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, even when it was ruled a legal hit.

He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an interview on Tuesday that the hit on Massaquoi “was a legal hit.”

“All you have to do is look at the tape,” Harrison said.

Common sense tells us hard hits are triggering concussions. By enforcing stronger guidelines, it is considered the smartest idea.

Protect your league before it’s too late.