Last week, the Denver Broncos announced that legendary center from Boston College, Tom Nalen, will be the next inductee into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame. His name and number will forever be hanging with the legends of the past.
Now although this accolade is obviously well-deserved and an overall huge honor, Nalen has somewhat broken out of his shell during his inductee ceremony about not only being honored by the Broncos, but how his style of play would be considered “dirty” if he was still active today. He refers to a play against defensive end Igor Olshanky, in which many felt that he purposely went after the defensive lineman’s knee.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a dirty player,” Nalen said. “I know people will bring up the Igor Olshansky play in 2006, but if people would look at the play before that and realize why I did what I did — and even on that play I missed the cut — so you know definitely, I wanted to blow his knee out on that play because of what happened the play before. But that, you know, is that dirty? I don’t know. It’s revenge, kind of, so.”
The league has been going under extraordinary measures to publicize their concern for player safety. While some critics, which include fans, ex-players, and advocates for player safety, all deemed the new standards of the NFL as promotional rather than revolutionary, the steps to create a safer game, regardless, are still in the works.
Nalen was part of Denver’s back-to-back Super Bowl teams alongside teammates John Elway and Terrell Davis and is arguably considered the best center to ever play in the Mile High city. He is by far one of the most physical yet quiet offensive lineman this game has seen.
Nalen played 14 seasons with Broncos and was named to the Pro Bowl five times. He is a three-time All-Pro recipient and was included on the Denver Broncos 50th Anniversary Team.
Throughout his career, Nalen helped charge an offensive line that produced six different running backs, all rushing for over 1,000 yards each.
If his game was dirty, he certainly is not alone. While there is simply no room in sports to try to purposefully hurt another fellow player, these type of events often happen and will continually occur.
There’s no denying that the play against Olshansky was dirty, but the real question will be if Nalen’s reputation will be tainted by these recent comments. Only time will tell, but it would not be unlikely if more big name offensive and defensive linemen discussed the physicality of the game even further.