Headbangers: 5 Ways The NFL Can Put A Lid On Concussions
Last weekend alone, I witnessed at least three devastating hits that had me reaching for the Tylenol. The first and most obvious was the hit Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson took during a game against the Atlanta Falcons. A couple others were during the Pittsburgh Steelers/Cleveland Browns game where it wasn’t rookie Browns QB Colt McCoy taking all the hits, but rather, his receivers getting knocked out of the game thanks to the two hits by the same guys on the Steelers (Steelers LB James Harrison sidelines both Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi). And Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap took a terrible hit to his head and somehow managed to return.
It got me—and a bunch of other columnists and bloggers— thinking: How can the NFL stop this from happening? For years, the league has built a reputation on hard hits and big tackles. So, how can they can combat this growing trend and make the game—and, most importantly, the players that play the game—safer? I’ve come up with a plan—what do you think?
1. Tell ESPN to stop showing great hits by defensive players.
It sounds sort of contradictory, right? Why you want to stop ESPN from showing the best defensive plays of the week. The truth is, NFL players use those plays to gauge their own effectiveness. If they’re not making highlights on ESPN, they need to hit harder. Get tougher. Send a receiver or a tight end to the ground. So that’s what they do. Only they take things too far and end up handing out concussions. If ESPN wasn’t showing devastating hits in the first place, a lot of the NFL’s defensive players wouldn’t be aspiring to hand them out.
2. Teach younger players how to tackle properly.
NFL players have gotten bigger, quicker, stronger, craftier and more versatile over the last ten years or so. But most of the same tackling techniques that were used ten years ago are being used today. To put an end to the concussions caused by poor tackling, the NFL (and the NCAA and high-school ranks, for that matter) need to focus on teaching all players how to tackle properly again.
3. Suspend defensive players for registering hits deemed to be too big on offensive players.
Right now, NFL players who get penalized for illegal hits are subject to a (relatively) small fine and a 15-yard penalty. The NFL needs to find a creative way to make their penalties harsher. Go the unconventional route and penalize players for a quarter or a half of the next game for an illegal hit. Repeat offenders receive additional time and can be suspended for up to a game. This way, guys will think before they lay another big hit.
4. Put a muzzle on guys like James Harrison.
Harrison is a great, great player. He’s quick and he delivers big hits. But he also basically refused to show any type of remorse for knocking two players out of a game. That doesn’t bode well for the influence he has on other players, who will likely do the same. If he’s going to deliver big hits, fine. Let him put himself at risk. But comments like he made after the game helps make it seem okay for guys to level each other and dish out concussions during games. That’s something the NFL culture doesn’t need right now.
5. Rethink the 18-game schedule.
I doubt they will, but if there’s anything we’re all learning about the NFL right now, it’s that it’s become more violent than ever before. There are teams that are literally decimated by injuries right now. Going to an 18-game schedule in the future is only going to make things more difficult on the players’ bodies. It’ll most certainly result in more injuries, including concussions. For the sake of all the players, the NFL has to limit them now and avoid facing an even bigger headache in the future.