It’s only the pre-season and already the NFL is facing controversy about their ability – or inability – to judge what is a legal hit and what isn’t. In week 2 of the pre-season and two hits have got people buzzing about them, including players. Texans defensive back D.J. Swearinger tackled Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller in the knee and basically tore every ligament he had, ending his season. No flag. No fine. Bears linebacker Jon Bostic hit Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie near the head, knocking the ball loose. No flag. FINED! And big … $21,000!
Swearinger’s defense was that he had to “re-train himself” to go low because of the new rules in the NFL. Bears linebacker Lance Briggs was outraged on Twitter that his teammate was fined so heavily for what he thought was a “clean” hit. James Jones, wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers said plainly, he’d rather get hit in the head and have a concussion, than get hit in the knee. The NFL says otherwise.
The NFL has made the open decision to accept knee injuries over head injuries. They will sacrifice a given player’s season or even career to a blown out knee, than surrender to a retired player’s lawsuit over the league’s failure to protect them against brain and head injuries. The NFL is right. It is clear that the league needs to protect players from themselves. Sure, a blown out knee to a 3rd-year wide out is more dangerous in their minds because it could be the difference between landing a huge multi-million dollar contract and being a guy who had a cup of coffee in the NFL. To a 23-year old, the difference is huge and the choice is clear. To adults, the choice is clear too. Have these young men spend a week with Steve Gleason, who has ALS believed to be brought on by head trauma. Have them talk to Sylvia Mackey for a few hours and ask her about the state he late husband, Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey, spend the last years of his life in, suffering from dementia from hits to the head as a player.
The NFL will protect players from themselves. They must. Not only for the preservation of the individuals, but for the preservation of the league! There are over 4,000 retired players currently suing the league for billions. That number will continue to grow and maybe even double if the NFL doesn’t take action now. Players can gripe publicly, through social media and in the media. The NFL is making it clear that everyone “kneed” to know the direction they are “headed.”
Follow me on Twitter @MarkZinno