After the punch, the football sack might be the most violent act in sports—and this past NFL season had 1,187 of them. Are they as bad as a fist in the face? SI asked the men who know best.
This is an article from the March 7, 2016 issue
"TELL ME, O MUSE," The Odyssey begins, "of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy." Almost 3,000 years later Reggie White's sacks of a different Troy (Aikman) rule our collective imagination. Like Homer's poem, the sack is epic. Some of the hardest- and most-hit quarterbacks recall their low points.
JON KITNA (63 sacks in 2006, fourth all time): It's like waiting in line at an amusement park for this cool ride, and you get to the front of the line and they say, "Something went wrong," and shut the ride down. It's such a disappointment.
RANDALL CUNNINGHAM (484 sacks, fourth all time): When they hit you, the first thing you think is, I've got to secure the ball and land right. It's like being in a car accident where you were rear-ended and you don't have any control.
KURT WARNER (260 career sacks): Ninety-five percent of sacks, you hardly feel them. You just bounce up. But there are always those few in which you're focused on something downfield, and all of a sudden a train hits you from the back in the ribs.
KITNA: On old-school turf, those turf burns would last a week or 10 days, throbbing in the middle of the night, waking you up. Other times your shoulders are sore, your hips, back, neck. Sometimes you're not over the soreness until Friday or Saturday.
ARCHIE MANNING (396 sacks, 13th all time; led league in 1971, '72 and '75): The '84 Bears got to me, I think, 11 times one day. We had a fullback, Teddy Brown, and after a sack in the middle of the second quarter he said, "We ain't got enough people."
WARNER: That playoff game in New Orleans where I got blindsided, it felt like my upper body and lower body went in completely different directions and I broke in half. I had trouble getting out of bed for 2½ weeks.
MARK BRUNELL (390 sacks, 14th all time; sacked 50 times in one season three times): The best thing you can do when you get sacked [is] to pop right back up, no matter how bad it hurts. If you lie on the ground, it fuels the fire for the defense.
DREW BLEDSOE (467 sacks, sixth all time): Some guys have an ability to take a hit and still deliver the ball. That's very, very hard to teach, like trying not to blink when somebody is going to poke you in the eye.
BRUNELL: I did get sacked by Reggie White. That was pretty cool. The greatest player ever at that position. I didn't like it at the moment, but it's a badge of honor.
MANNING: I had a knee replacement a couple years ago, and I ran into one of my old linemen. He said, "Boy, you're really limping." I said, "Yeah, if my buddies had blocked anybody, I wouldn't be in this situation."