Players Using Their Heads For Good

I come from the old school of football.  I believe the game is physical, tough.  Not for the weak of heart.  I come from a time when players continued to play with a concussion.  They didn’t leave the field.  If they could count to one, back into the game they went.   Some of today’s players are old school.  Troy Polamalu for one.

The league wants players to go back to old school tackling techniques.  In other words, leading with their shoulders instead of the helmet.   Because of increasing concussions, officials are targeting “targeting”.  Defined as a defender going after a defenseless player above the shoulders.  Somewhere along the line, players began using the helmet as a weapon.  The NFL didn’t like it.  Rules were instituted against it.  But were never enforced.  That is until concussions started being the norm rather than the exception. 

Several weeks ago the NFL began implementing procedures to enforce these rules.  In one week, James Harrison of the Steelers was fined $75,000 as a repeat offender.  New England’s Brandon Meriweather was docked $50,000 for what NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson termed a “cheap shot” on Baltimore TE Todd Heap in a Helmet to Helmet collision.  Dante Robinson of the Falcons also was fined $50,000 for the same offense.

This enforcement has taken the players by surprise.  Some, like Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, are speaking out.  Polamalu suggests the NFL create a governing body to investigate hits on the field and regulate fines.  Currently Commissioner Roger Goodell acts as Judge and Jury.  Even appeals go directly to him.  Some will say Polamalu was “ripping” Goodell by saying he has too much power. But Polamalu didn’t just “rip and run”.  He offered solutions.  

“There needs to be some type of separation of power, like our government,” Polamalu said. “I don’t think it should be based totally on what two or three people may say that are totally away from the game. It should be some of the players that are currently playing.”  Besides Polamalu, some being mentioned for this committee have been former players Dan Marino and Emmit Smith.  Along with former coaches Bill Cowher and Don Shula.

This coming on the horizon of a new Collective Bargaining agreement.  The NFL could lock out the players next season.  Currently, the players enjoy about a 60-40 split in the way that gross revenue is split for the NFL. But that is after owners receive about $1 billion off the top of the roughly $8 billion per year that the NFL generates in revenue.  The Owners also want to expand the 16 game schedule to 18.  In return they are willing to give the players a reduction in the 4 game pre-season schedule to 2, pro-rated pay and another bye week during the season. 

Keeping in mind the fines levied the players union will push for Polamalu’s rules enforcement committee.  This time the players leading with their helmets might just pay off in the end.

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