March 30, 2023

Reilly’s Rants: Hard Hits Impacting NFL

Over the past few months, the football world has been buzzing over the discussion of hard hits in the National Football League. The focus on the Saints “bounty program,” possible elimination of the kickoff, and the effects a player experiences after the game has been a large topic of discussion throughout all popular media outlets. Commissioner Roger Goodell and other NFL officials have been considering the course of action that should be taken to prevent players from becoming injured so frequently.
The NFL should fret no longer because I have the answer: Stop playing football. Those in charge of the NFL seem to not understand that if you consistently play with fire, you are going to be burned. It does not take a medical professional to understand that the human body was not meant to be put under the stress that the sport of football involves. As soon as an offensive player steps onto the field, he knows he has a very good chance of colliding with a 6’2”, 250-pound man (the size of the average linebacker), and as soon as he can pick himself off of the ground, he has a chance of running the same odds all over again. If you repeat this for an hour you have a standard game of football. Seems harsh right?
Wrong. These players are paid millions of dollars to put their bodies on the line. As soon as they sign their name on the dotted line, they are forfeiting their rights to an injury-free career. It’s as simple as that. Team owners are willing to pay millions of dollars for the players that can perform through the intimidation and pressure associated with being the target of nothing short of professional brutes. This type of player, an Aaron Rodgers or a Maurice Jones-Drew, is constantly opposed by their defensive counterparts.
Similar the previously stated player, the average defensive end or linebacker spends hours in the gym perfecting the art of stopping the best of quarterbacks and halfbacks. Players like Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis spend countless hours understanding the tools they can utilize in order to keep their opponents on the losing end. And what better tool is there than intimidation? Since they were in junior high, these players were told to put all they can in their hits on other players. Coaches always told them to make sure the opposing quarterback remembered their tackle. When this state of mind is combined with the body of an athlete, you end up with some very hard hits. At times, players that may be aiming to tackle in the upper torso may overshoot it, and end up delivering a concussion or two. Normally, they are not intending to deliver an injury or do something “dirty”. If they do, there are penalties within the game and fines outside of the game to deal with it. But Goodell and others cannot control this efficiently via any other method.
Officials must remember fans come to watch their favorite linebacker or defensive end deliver the hit that makes the whole crowd erupt into cheers. Shawne Merriman didn’t earn the nickname “Lights Out” because he is energy-conscious. Troy Polamalu isn’t feared among the league for his eccentric haircut. Both players, among others, have left their mark on football because of their aggressive play styles and ability to instill fear to the players on the opposing squad. The NFL would be wrong in trying to change it.