If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a lifelong football fan, it’s that the NFL does nothing in moderation. All preseason, officiating crews flagged helmet to helmet shots with abandon, turning fans, coaches, players alike against the new points of emphasis. Plays on which not a single party was struck in the head were being flagged as head shots. They tried to do a good thing, and wound up doing too much.
So what did the NFL do next? It caved completely, of course. The drastic changes to the fiber of the game which many feared after the preseason never came to fruition. The points of emphasis were no more. They resolved to police helmet strikes via fine, rather than disrupt the flow and momentum of the game. That’s how Jordan Reed, Washington tight end, crosses the middle in the fourth quarter, gets struck in the helmet violently by Dallas defensive back Xavier Woods, and nothing gets called.
The points of emphasis in the preseason were meant to protect players like Reed, who said two years ago he’s suffered at least six concussions playing football. On Thursday there was an official standing mere feet away when Woods delivered the shot, and for some reason that official stood silent. An indignant Reed later chucked his helmet to the ground in protest, and it’s hard to blame him.
For some players who deliver dangerous hits, fines aren’t enough to dissuade them. They need to know that unnecessarily violent play will not only cost them, but their team. If it’s too difficult for an NFL official standing 10 feet away to make that call, the league should look to an alternative.
My idea: partial-week suspensions. Taking into account a player’s history with dangerous play, the league should reserve the option to suspend players for days at a time. Try to take a tight end’s head off? You’re barred from participating in football activities at the team facility from Monday to Thursday. You can come in for treatment, but there’s no communicating with coaches, no film sessions and no game-plan install. The effect would be two-fold: The team loses the services of a contributor to some degree, and a player who has a history of illegal hits sees less of the field on Sunday, minimizing his opportunities to injure.
Either that, or maybe officials can just start calling obvious penalties what they are and throw the flag.
There’s a middle ground here, and the NFL and its officials need to find it.
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1. ESPN’s David Fleming turns in a fantastic screed on a failed NFL franchise and its Thanksgiving Day miracle.
2. The NFL is now turning the team celebrations into online content and the Washington Post’s Cindy Boren has some thoughts.
3. Chuck McDonald of SB Nation delivered some entertaining Thanksgiving tales and succulent recipes from four NFL linemen.
4. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes received a heck of a compliment from Aaron Rodgers, who says the second-year slinger reminds Rodgers of himself.
5. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tried his hand at meme creation. 6 out of 10.
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I spent Thanksgiving week trying to rally friends to play in a tackle football game on Thanksgiving morning, something we used to do back in the day, in our high school and college bodies. No takers among the 30-and-over crowd. I spent the rest of the day thinking about what wimps these friends of mine are, until I twisted my ankle in the front yard while trying to wrestle a deflated rugby ball away from my dog, Bruce. Enjoy your youth, kids.
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