The Breakdown: Ready the rifles |

The Breakdown: Ready the rifles

summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Sports editor Bryce Evans

Don’t get me wrong, I knew the Michigan football team had a bad defense this year, but I didn’t really realize the full extent of it: When Big Blue hosted the Spartans on Oct. 6, a National Guardsman was able to convince a slew of Michigan Stadium security guards and police officers that he was a member of the official honor guard, thus working his way onto the field for the game. The only problem here – well, besides that he was lying – was the two (unloaded) M16 assault rifles he brought with him.

Not exactly a good day for Maze and Blue security, especially with more than 113,000 in attendance – or in other words, 113,000 potential victims of a nut job with a gun shooting up into the stands.

The guy supposedly complied with police afterward and said he only did it because he couldn’t get tickets to the game.

Funny, I never realized carrying guns was the alternative to scalpers.

Then again, with how a number of NFL (defensive) players talked this week, you’d think a rifle would be necessary protection on the field.

Anyone who’s looked at any sports media outlet either online, in print or on TV has undoubtedly heard about the controversy surrounding the NFL’s decision to start handing out fines and/or suspensions for illegal and dangerous hits.

And anyone who’s heard any of this has also heard the onslaught of linebackers, safeties and any other big-hitting position player coming out against this.

We’ve heard warrior speeches from Miami’s Channing Crowder, who said, and I quote, “They give me a helmet, and I’m going to use it.” ESPN analyst and former Bronco great, Mark Schlereth, said the league might as well start playing flag football. And, in the top overreaction of the season, Pittsburgh’s James Harrison “contemplated” retirement because he wasn’t sure if he could play football anymore with these “new rules.” Harrison’s pouting spell lasted all of one day; he’ll play today.

Through all the hysteria surrounding this, there seems to be two huge problems.

The first is that it seems something has been lost on nearly everyone lashing out (or at the very least, it’s very misunderstood): the NFL didn’t change any of its rules.

In case they somehow didn’t know, helmet-to-helmet hits have always been illegal, and it’s always been a penalty to lead with your helmet – even if you end up making contact with your shoulder.

It’s as simple as that. Nothing has changed.

The only difference here is the punishment. And, you know, when one of the biggest beefs in the upcoming labor negotiations for the league deals with the health of players and how the league protects them during and after their careers, you’d think players wouldn’t mind having rules against decapitation actually enforced.

The second problem here is a little more disturbing, and that deals with how so many current and former players have come out saying that these dangerous forms of hitting were how they were taught to play from the time they were little kids.

Really? Your Pee Wee coach taught you to launch yourself in the air, leading with your helmet and try to blow up the other player rather than making a proper form tackle?

I have a hard time believing this.

I played football my entire childhood through my senior year of high school and I never once heard a coach say to lead with your head.

There’s a huge difference between a great, hard tackle and a dirty one.

The hits players were fined for this week were dirty ones. The hits players get fined and suspended for in the coming weeks will be the dirty ones, too.

No one is changing any rules. The league isn’t telling Ray Lewis or Harrison or Crowder to slow down; they’re telling them to hit legally.

And this is a good thing, because these dirty shots have about as much place on the field as a dude packing twin rifles.

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