As many of you know the NFL is placing an emphasis moving forward on vicious hits, particularly helmet-to-helmet and hits to a defenseless receiver. Last week there were a number of high profile hits causing the league to react to folks seeing guys like DeSean Jackson suffering from memory loss and Josh Cribbs being knocked out cold on the field.
Some players and former players have vocalized their displeasure with the league's announcement while others, like Brian Waters, wonders why the league is profiting from big hits and then potentially suspending players for those same hits.
Waters talked with reporters this afternoon about this topic, which is being discussed all around the league. "I’m trying to be very careful with my words here," Waters said, per Josh Looney of KCChiefs.com, "but the league came to the game very late on this to be honest with you."
Waters, a member of the NFLPA's Executive Committee, used the current labor situation in the NFL as an example. He says that if a lockout comes that players and for some, their families, will lose their insurance. The league cares enough about the players to offer more stringent consequences for violating the current rules and promote player safety but they're going to take away the players insurance. Sure, it's a PR move on the union's part but it's a very real point with real consequences.
"I’m all about players safety," Waters says, "so anything that’s going to help guys keep from getting injured or their careers shortened or affected in the long-term, as a football player, and as a man, then I’m all for it."
As Looney points out, this debate should resonate in the Chiefs locker room. They lost two players this season to head injuries -- safety Maurice Leggett and linebacker Cameron Sheffield. Also, safety Kendrick Lewis was fined $5,000 in Week 2 for hitting a defenseless receiver.
I think one important note that Todd Haley pointed out this afternoon (video via KCChiefs.com) is that the rules haven't changed. The rules that were in place are still in place. The difference is that the league said they will place an emphasis on it moving forward and potentially suspend players for illegal hits.
Like most of the big topics we hear about in the NFL these days, this will turn into a negotiation. Both sides want player safety. I think that's clear. From my view the league isn't looking very good with the fans -- many like the big hits -- and I think the players have an excellent point. You can't have it both ways. If you cater to the big hits then you can't punish players when it happens.