It’s a miracle the CBS broadcasting crew was able to stomach the vicious hit on Antonio Brown last Saturday night. I thought Phil Simms would pass out from the horror of Vontaze Burfict’s shoulder to skull hit with just 18 seconds to play.
The studio crew was just as appalled after the Cincinnati Pittsburgh game wrapped up, with each panel member acting like they thought this Wild-Card game between two bitter rivals would be similar to a badminton match.
You would have thought Bart Scott and Boomer Esiason had never played the game by the shock they displayed.
I get it. The NFL is trying to keep its players safe and clearly have pushed the networks covering its games to lean toward a “friendlier” NFL than the one we saw in the last minute of the Bengals game.
But these commentators are jumping through hoops to make the viewers think that football is not a place for violent acts like we saw from Burfict or the type of lashing out Pacman Jones showed us.
Like it or not, the NFL is full of fired up super athletes that are clawing at a chance to be champions. They are not going to act like gentlemen in a polo match on each play. They are gonna hit each other with all they got and when an assistant coach taunts them in the heat of battle, we have a 50/50 shot at a guy like Adam Jones flipping out.
Wanting to put the opponent’s best players out of the game has not gone extinct either. Burfict reminded us of that on two plays, one legal and one illegal.
Now that I’ve covered the commentators overreaction to the violence that they apparently forgot is an inherent part of football, I can move on to the fact that Burfict wasn’t the only headhunter in this game or the other three games this weekend. His kill shot on Antonio Brown was the most obvious skull thumper, but there were plenty more to choose from if you wanted to put together a playlist of dangerous hits to the head.
Most of the hits I’m talking about are hits that are just as dangerous to the tackler as the ball carrier.
We can stay on the Bengals game to see one case. Check the pic below as Giovani Bernard was being cracked in the head by a Steelers linebacker with his head down.
Bernard was concussed on the play and never returned of course. This hit was just as dangerous for the Steelers defender and could have caused much more than a concussion with his head down. We’re talking possible spinal injuries here with this insane tackling form.
Running backs are just as guilty of lowering their head before big impacts with tacklers. Adrian Peterson is so fortunate he hasn’t been seriously hurt by attacking defenders with the crown of his helmet as seen below.
He’s been doing it his entire career so why would he change. The refs rarely flag a running back for lining up a defender with a shot from the ball carrier’s helmet so there’s no deterrent there either.
Check the video below to see a fantastic Chris Ivory run that shows a Dolphins defender with his facemask parallel to the ground as he tries to tackle Ivory. The tackler is a menace to himself and either doesn’t know it or doesn’t think the consequences of bad form tackling can be severe.
The NFL can change all the rules they want in order to protect the players. Commentators can pretend big hits are a thing of the past and condemn obvious skull cracking moments like we saw in Cincinnati on Antonio Brown. But head injuries will keep happening until the players take it upon themselves to keep their heads up during contact.
The Seahawks put out a great instructional tackling video in 2014 that was meant show players on all levels of football the best way to avoid injury while tackling an opponent. That form of tackling just happens to be the surest way to actually make a tackle as well. It involves putting the head to the side and keeping the head up at all times as seen below.
No technique is perfect when it comes to avoiding injury. We are talking about giant men with muscles on their nostrils running into each other full blast. The technique video above is at least a step in the right direction.
It would be great if concussions were completely eliminated from the game. That’s unlikely to happen even with some exciting new helmet technology that is secretly being developed as I type.
Head injuries can be reduced dramatically in the meantime though. It won’t happen by pointing out the most egregious hits to the head on dirty plays when it’s convenient to criticize a player.
Concussions and the possibility of spinal injuries will go down when both players and coaches make protecting the head a priority. Players who refuse to adapt their technique, knowing the long term consequences of head and neck damage, can’t just point the finger at the League down the line.