Another horrifying football injury has re-ignited the debate over vicious NFL hits.Indianapolis wide receiver Austin Collie was carried off the field on a stretcher after being knocked unconscious by a helmet-to-helmet from Philadelphia’s Kurt Coleman.
Despite the scary result, everyone from the announcers to Collie’s own teammates insist the hit was legal.
If that’s the case, the rules will have to change.
In all the furor about brutal hits this season, the NFL did not actually change the rules of hitting. They merely increased the penalties for illegal hits. But when a legal hit like Coleman’s can do so much damage, Roger Goodell must feel compelled to act to eliminate them. He most likely will in the offseason.
There’s is a lot of talk about Coleman’s intent. He didn’t intend to smash his helmet against Collie’s, but these things happen in football. However, if the NFL’s new goal is to make sure these things don’t happen, that means reducing the opportunity for legal hits to create injury.
To take another example, later in the game, another Eagle was given a personal foul for brushing his hand across Peyton Manning’s head. It was a harmless play, and fans were irate. But that play is often not harmless, which is why there is a rule against it. You can’t hit a quarterback in the head. Ever.
Sometimes this rule catches innocent players who make a harmless mistake, but in order to protect quarterbacks, the law can’t afford to make that distinction. Touch him on the head and it’s 15 yards.
Coleman may not have violated an actual football rule, but he violated the spirit of the unnecessary roughness rules that he was flagged for. He created a dangerous situation and someone got hurt.
Some say football is always a dangerous situation, but the NFL cannot take many more plays like the one we saw on Sunday.
Look for the NFL to rewrite the rules for defensive backs. No leading with the head or shoulders. No leaving your feet. No more trying to jar the bar loose with a bone-crunching hit the moment the ball reaches the receiver. First contact must be made with the arms or hands. (Which is a better tackling technique anyway.)
Expect some or all of these conditions to be placed on defensive players before next season. Expect defensive players and their union to be outraged. And expect the league to shrug its shoulders and move on, because that’s what the league needs to do to survive.
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