Owners Take Some Insanity out of Game

By Collier, Gene | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), March 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

Owners Take Some Insanity out of Game


Collier, Gene, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


No one has ever so much as estimated the length or breadth or depth of the convulsive transition underway in the NFL, so maybe it's not surprising that some of the people it will affect are having such profound difficulty with it.

No one said it would be easy changing the game from 60 minutes of essentially unrepressed violence into something the players can live with, and I mean literally.

Mike Webster is dead.

Terry Long is dead.

Justin Strzelczyk is dead.

Junior Seau is dead.

Dave Duerson is dead.

That's an abridged list.

Javon Belcher is dead, and so is his girlfriend, whom he shot nine times.

There's an unnecessarily deep-grain brutality to football at this level that's leaving people unable to function mentally as well as physically, and they're taking collateral damage.

This didn't happen overnight. It won't recede overnight.

By taking the rightful step that penalizes "forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top crown of the helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside of the tackle box," the league's owners Wednesday accelerated the transition back toward sanity.

From now on, a running back cannot lower his head to ram a tackler in the open field, and a defender cannot do the same to a ball carrier, at least without drawing a penalty.

The league shouldn't do this unilaterally, but the transition will be markedly smoother when players graduate from a mentality that's been wired into their DNA by coaches and executives and other players for decades.

In the opening pages of "The Blind Side," a book about Baltimore Ravens tackle Michael Oher and, more broadly, about the game's evolution, author Michael Lewis effectively illuminates the absolutely fearsome nature of the anatomical politics between the sidelines.

"A sack is when you run up behind somebody who's not watching, he can't see you, and you really put your helmet into him," is the quote he presents from New York Giants Lawrence Taylor. "I don't like to just wrap the quarterback. I really try to make him see seven fingers when they hold up three, or, if I can, I'll bring my arm up over my head and try to axe the [quarterback]. So long as the guy is holding the ball, I intend to hurt him. If I hit the guy right, I'll hit a nerve and he'll feel electrocuted. He'll feel for a few seconds like he's not on a football field."

These quotes are going on 30 years old. Don't tell me the game is more civilized today. The L.T. mentality has metastasized. Taylor wasn't reviled for his attitude. He was revered. The next generation of defenders couldn't wait to play that way. Eventually, meaning today, there are too many players who are as obsessed with hurting people as they are with winning.

Way too often, coaches love them for it.

Google the New Orleans Saints if you have no frame of reference. …

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