The game is changing. Safety is a concern in the NFL today more than ever. This week we saw three big name quarterbacks go down and a running back. Chicago Bears Jay Cutler, San Francisco 49ers Alex Smith, Philadelphia Eagles Michael Vick, and Buffalo Bills RB Fred Jackson got their bell rung and were taken out of the game. Is this because the NFL is watching more carefully, or are players just bigger, faster, and stronger?
Well, it is a combination of both in my mind. Even with the new rules on defenseless players, people still want that highlight reel hit. This of course has led to a lot of warranted penalties from officials and others that have been legal, but called anyway. This is in the eye of the official because they do not have the benefit of replaying the hit five or ten times like all of us at home.
This year, more than ever, the NFL is watching out for their players. This is a good thing no matter what the average fan thinks about violent hits being a part of the game. Just like your family, family and really anybody, safety should be the top priority. Impressionable kids are watching the games and going out and trying to duplicate that same hit. Like this one on Eagles TE Matt Schobel by Dallas Cowboys Ken Hamlin.
This is clearly a helmet to helmet hit. Would you want your kid to do the same? Absolutely not, and if you do I am not afraid to question your parenting skills. Safety should be the top concern at all levels of the game. Over the past five years the NFL has really recognized the importance of noticing concussions.
The NFL implemented its first set of concussion rules in 2007. It stated that a player could not return to the game if he loses consciousness at any point after a hit. To return to the game the player must be completely symptom free and pass a series of tests. The NFL also would require players to undergo tests later in the season to cover any changes they may see. Eventually, the NFL would get steeper criticism and changed the rule again following a meeting at the House Judiciary Committee.
This rule stated that a player cannot return to practice or a game if they are experiencing any concussion like symptoms. Also, a player now needs to be analyzed by an outside trainer and the team’s trainer before returning to play. In 2010, the NFL decided to crack down on any and all helmet to helmet contact. Players were fined and even suspended for hits on opposing players.
Players are bigger, faster, and stronger in the NFL. There is no denying that. When two players are headed full speed at each other their is going to be a collision. Sometimes both players get up, “hug it out”, and move on. Other times the consequences at all levels of play can be life threatening. The NFL is spending millions of dollars on research to make the game safer and studying the effects of multiple concussions on players.
As most NFL fans know, former player Junior Seau committed suicide earlier in the year. His death is widely linked to concussions during his long and successful NFL career. His family has even donated his brain tissue for research. If he would have had the same rules would he still be with us today? It’s not for me to say.
The players in today’s game are protected from suffering further injury, but there is nothing they will ever be able to do to stop concussions from occuring. This is a violent game. Concussions are going to happen. Protecting these players should and always be the priority. After all, they are human beings and not just here for our amusement.
Follow Kase Brammer on Twitter @KBlive33