I was listening to Jim Rome talk show on the radio on the way home from work today. He had Bill Romanowski on the line. They were discussing the recent fines and the NFL's new "No Tolerance Policy" on helmet to helmet impacts on receivers.
Of course, Romanowski a former NFL linebacker was lamenting the rule change. He was concerned that new NFL ruling was taking too much away from the intensity of the sport. He commented essentially that if players don't want to hit or be hit "they should take up badminton, tennis, volleyball or golf." I understand that kind of sentiment coming from a linebacker. He said that he got into the sport of football because he wanted to hit people and really jack them up.
Now I've felt for quite some time that it's poor technique to hit someone without wrapping them up, taking them off their feet and forcing them to the turf. I played the game at the small college level as an undersized lineman. I coached undersized linemen later on as a position coach. So perhaps I'm a bit anal when it comes to studying and learning and teaching proper technique in order for smaller players to be as successful as possible among bigger, faster and stronger opponents.
It frustrates me to see High School, College and so-called Professionals who use poor technique in open field tackling. College players see the pros do it and emulate them. HS players see players at higher levels and try to copy them as well. Arm tackling is just as, or even more prolific at all levels, but I digress.
I understand the thinking that if a player makes a significant enough impact on a receiver that he lands on a planet in some far away galaxy, the hitter has done his job; which obviously is to bring the ball carrier to a quick and terminal stop. However, my argument is that this is not fundamentally sound football to do so.
Now don't get me wrong. I love to see a big hit just as much as the next guy. I enjoy seeing the receiver get up with turf caught up between his face mask and helmet. Good coaching teaches the tackler to land on top of the tacklee and then reach down and help the poor lad up, smack him on the butt and say, "see ya next play" and trot back to the huddle; that is if the guy retained possession of the ball.
You might think about this next time you see a safety or LB blow up a receiver over the middle or a kickoff team scream down the field bearing down on the kick returner. It occurs every game. Observe whether they wrapped up the receiver or not. I guarantee you that more often than not, they won't get the flag if they impact the receiver with proper wrap up technique no matter how explosive the hit is.
Seriously now, would it be fun if Dexter McCluster or Tony Moeaki had to miss playing time for three weeks with a concussion because some joker blew him up with a helmet on helmet collision? I wouldn't be. I'd also hate to see one of them in a wheelchair with Alzheimer's 25 years from now because they suffered permanent brain damage as a result of taking too many big hits during their playing days. I also wouldn't think it fun to lose Derrick Johnson or Eric Berry for a few games because they caused a receiver a concussion.
Heavy hitters who use poor tackling technique show a lack of respect for other players and for the game we love so much. I'm glad the NFL is cracking down (no pun intended) on these guys. I would prefer their coaches would care enough about other players and the game to demand better technique from their players.
This game I love is supposed to be intense. It's supposed to be fun. People do get hurt. They play on. Others get injured, sit out for a few games, or the entire season. Unfortunately it happens. The less it happens, the more fun it is for everyone. If it improves because of the rule change, the game will be better for it.