SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Off With Their Heads?

Yesterday, Falcons' defensive back Dunta Robinson put a vicious hit on the Eagles' WR DeSean Jackson that left Jackson unconscious for 7 minutes and asking why he was being walked off the field after the head. Robinson's hit was a "head to head" hit, and it drew a flag. Last night, Rodney Harrison, the one-time Patriot great, said that every year he put away $50,000 to pay in fines for hits like that. He offered that suspensions would be a better deterrent than just fines, because a suspension would take the player off the field and take a paycheck away from the player.

That's a good thought, and the NFL has to do something to stop this behavior before a combination of

a) more and more data about former players with brain injuries surfaces;
b) more and more former players are unable to support themselves or take care of themselves properly because their benefits aren't good enough and their post-football earning power isn't strong enough; and
c) someone gets killed out there;

compels Congress to legislate. Students of history will recall that President Teddy Roosevelt reformed the game of football at the turn of the 20th century when there were fatalities that were caused by some practices that continue to be outlawed today (such as forward motion). Do the NFL, the lords of college football and the kings of high school football want that? Should the parents want that? Should the public demand it, because the "after" picture of "Glory Days" is quite ugly?

So here are a few suggestions:

1. The team of a player who makes a hit like the one Robinson made gets hit with a 15-yard penalty. Okay, that's obvious.
2. Automatic ejection for the player.
3. Automatic suspension for the amount of games the other player misses, with a minimum suspension (with loss of pay) of two games.
4. A $50,000 fine.
5. And you can figure out the rest for repeat offenders. Out for the year?

Critics of this criticism will argue that reformers will ruin the game and turn it into 2-hand touch. Hardly. Look, the evidence seems to be compelling about all sorts of awful injuries players suffer that cripple them for life. Something needs to be done about hits like these -- before someone gets paralyzed or killed, before we have too many former players who suffer mental illness before 50, and before someone does it for professional football.

Remember, we all love players who use their heads.

Figuratively.

Not literally.

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