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The Breakdown: Defenseless

BRYCE EVANS
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Sports editor Bryce Evans
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As far as the sport is concerned, football’s certainly had better weekends than this past one. On Sunday, there were no less than six ridiculously dangerous (and unnecessary) hits in the NFL – and this was all one day after Rutgers’ Eric LeGrand was paralyzed on a helmet-to-helmet collision on a kickoff return.

In a couple of the cases, it was bad timing. But in most, the hits seemed 100 percent intentional.

Twice in the Steelers-Browns game Sunday, Pittsburgh’s James Harrison, a former defensive player of the year, threw himself, helmet-first, into Cleveland players. The first was on Joshua Cribbs (who was running the ball), and the second was on Mohamed Massaquoi, who was absolutely blindsided by the cheap shot while catching a pass.

The good news: Both players probably woke up the next day with no knowledge of whom they play for. The bad news: Once their concussions wear off, they’ll realize it’s the Browns.

Now, the league has decided to crack down harder on these hits, stating it will suspend or fine players for “dangerous” and “flagrant” hits that violate the rules, especially those that are helmet-to-helmet. (Harrison had to penny up $75,000.)

Some people feel it’s just a PR move by the league; some think it’s the wrong move all together; while others say it’s the right thing to do.

Either way, the argument for helmet-to-helmet hitting doesn’t seem to exist. And when these types of collisions come in the defenseless variety, as in one of the players has no idea that a head the size of a watermelon is flying at him at an alarming speed, then there should definitely be repercussions for the players.

Throwing a hanky at the guy and giving the other team a first down isn’t enough, so the league is taking a good step.

Although, maybe the NFL should take this “defenseless” thing a little further. After all, there are dozens of actions that fall under this category each and every week, most having nothing at all to do with hitting.

For instance, what about banning defensive players from hitting opponents (who don’t have the ball) from behind? Or what about making Tom Brady’s hair illegal?

Neither can be defended, and really, the world would be a better place without them.

Some other NFL oddities (or regularities, if you look at them right) that qualify as defenseless:

– Brett Favre’s dirty-old-man routine. (Of course, I mean “old” in respect to his profession as a jeans model.) The Wrangler man definitely needs to keep his pants on while texting team employees. That would actually be a very simple rule change for the league. But, it’s all still just allegation right now. I mean, maybe it was all just a misunderstanding, and all the guy really needs is a belt.

– The Dallas Cowboys. There’s no reason that a team loaded with that much talent should be 1-4, you know, unless you count Wade Phillips, Roy Williams, Jerry Jones and Tony Romo as reasons. If nothing else, it should be illegal to mention the Cowboys and Super Bowl in the same sentence. Dang, I already broke the rule, so it starts … now.

– Self-absorbed celebration dances on plays that are meaningless, ordinary and/or obnoxious. If anyone was actually watching Tennessee and Jacksonville play on Monday Night Football (a really exciting 30-3 romp for the Titans that featured a pair of backup quarterbacks who threw for a combined 250 yards), you would have seen Chris Johnson take a handoff on fourth-and-5 with only 1:40 remaining and the game well in hand and run 35 yards to the endzone – and then do a little jig while ignoring his teammates who stood, mostly disinterested, behind him. At least we got one last shot of the dude’s gold-plated grill. Other than that, I don’t see much need for it.

– Kicking. It’s the biggest downer in the sport. I’ve never once sat through a compelling game that came down to the final play and, upon seeing the 5-foot-6, 120-pound kicker jog onto the field, said, “Whew, I’m glad all of this is coming down to the guy who looks like Squeak Scolari from ‘BASEketball.'”

I’m not sure how much the league can change with any of this stuff, but, at least, cracking down on the helmet hits is a good start.

Doing nothing, there would’ve been no defending that.


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