Heads Up: Goodell, NFLPA, Competition Committee, must protect knees of all players, not just QB’s : Packers Insider

Heads Up: Goodell, NFLPA, Competition Committee, must protect knees of all players, not just QB’s

March 22, 2014 by  
Filed under News

By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor

~The Brady Rule. You know what it is.
Well, no it’s not related to the special “Tuck Rule” that stole a playoff game from the Raiders and Charles Woodson back in the 2001 season playoffs which helped Brady win his first Super Bowl.

The Brady Rule was the NFL’s response to Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard diving into the planted knee of Brady, tearing his ACL in the opening game of the 2008 NFL season.

Coming off the 2007 undefeated regular season, this was an immediate eye-opener for the league, to see it’s #1 star, record-breaking quarterback have his season end in the first game on a dangerous hit into the knee.

The NFL, wisely, realized that this type of “tackle” was extremely dangerous and would cause severe injuries to the “defenseless” passer, so they put a new rule in that penalized this.

It had happened a few years earlier, in a playoff game, to Carson Palmer and the favored Bengals against the visiting Steelers.

Carson Palmer’s ACL & MCL were torn on this low hit into his planted knee by the Steelers’ Kimo von Oelhoffen. The Bengals went from Super Bowl contenders to pushovers after von Oelhoffen wrecked Carson Palmer’s knee in a 2005 playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium.

That was on the first pass of the game from Palmer, and it ended his game, season, and killed the rise of the Bengal for at least a decade. They’re still looking for a legit QB.

Even though Palmer was a former #1 overall pick, he was not a big enough star, like Brady was, so the NFL didn’t enact a new rule after that hit.

Matt Hassellbeck, years earlier as a Seahawk against the Vikings, also had suffered a knee injury for a low hit into his knees.

While I admire the NFL for adapting to the evolving horrible and dangerous “heads down” tackling by the modern player, it’s a shame they cannot be proactive more instead of reactive. It took a broken foot to Terrell Owens from a Roy Williams horse-collar for them to finally suspend Williams. He had been warned and penalized many times prior to that one.

That brings us to the “defenseless receiver” and his knees.

Matt Elam came up from behind, and as a lot of these reckless young safeties nowadays do, he tucked his head, face-down, and led with his helmet into the knee area. Because Cobb was defenseless and his foot planted at that moment, he had no chance to avoid a serious injury. He would miss almost three months, but was lucky his ACL wasn’t torn apart.

Sure, the NFL has enacted new, strict rules to protect receivers heads. But we all know that’s not out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s a result of lawsuits. Legal action, and a threat to the shield and it’s finances, will change rules even faster than torn ACL’s.

Ask Rob Gronkowski, or Dustin Keller, Jordan Shipley, Ovie Mughelli, or Randall Cobb. These five players had their knees targeted and some blown apart because of cheap shots into the knees by new, modern, young safeties who claim they’re forced to tackle low now because of the fines for the hits higher. Whether or not all the blame should go to the league, what matters is protecting the players knees.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends (and Fullbacks in Mughelli’s case) may not be as marquee as Brady is, but they still make their livings partly due to having good wheels, which means the knees.

Gronkowski, Keller, and Cobb will never be the same. Sure, I know that Cobb did make it back by the final game of the season, and killed the Bears with the 4th down last-minute touchdown.

“I think a lot of us saw the hit on Dustin Keller,” Rodgers said after Green Bay’s 19-17 win, “I just felt like [Elam] had enough time to make a hit in the legal hitting zone. I just felt like, from my vantage point, he had plenty of time to not take out a guy’s legs in that situation,”

Rodgers specifically referenced “the hit on Dustin Keller,” which was a very similar play in the preseason. On that one, Houston Texan rookie D.J. Swearinger broke Keller’s knee on a tackle (see below), resulting in catastrophic injuries for the newly-signed Miami tight end.
Swearinger said afterwards “In this league you’ve got to go low. If you go high, you’re going to get fined.
By being over-cautious, with many ridiculous penalties and fines, for hits even close to being up high, it’s creating more and more safeties who throw their eyes down and heads low into knees of receivers. This is the result: receivers, tight ends, running backs losing their legs/knees that made them good enough to make a living in the NFL.

I don’t like seeing fellow players blow up other players ACL’s or legs snapped in half, even if it happens to someone on the Seahawks, 49ers, Vikings or Bears.

Elam could have creamed Cobb in his ribs, or higher. But if Cobb ducked and Elam aimed for the ribs, he’d probably get flagged for a personal foul, 15-yard penalty, and get fined later. These rules are because of lawsuits by former players against the NFL because of concussions. It might be time for Cobb, Gronk, Keller, Ovie, Shipley to lead a new class-action lawsuit to get the NFL to protect their knees in defenseless positions like this.

Cobb avoided the horrific torn ACL. He just suffered a broken leg. He missed almost three months, but he came back in time to get the Packers into the playoffs. But he’ll never run that seam route and make the catch not thinking about the safety coming in to break his knee/leg in half again. It’s not even penalized. Why wouldn’t the safeties keep doing this?

“I think it (Elam’s hit into my knee) was dirty,” Cobb said on Wednesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk at the Super Bowl.  “But I don’t think it was meant to be dirty.  I think with the new rules in place he was doing the opposite and trying to protect himself from getting a fine and it just caused a low hit.” There it is again, about the money.

“I think we have to create some kind of hitting zone, some kind of targeting zone,” Cobb said.  “We’re professional athletes, we can make that type of adjustment.  We just need the repetition and practice to make the adjustment.”

TJ Ward didn’t want to get fined. He likes his money, and he respects his pocketbook more than he does fellow players.

Ward might have had his eyes closed. His face was facing down, away from the pass-catcher. I still find it amazing that these guys keep leading with their heads, yet it was Nick Colins just sitting down who suffered a neck injury, ending his career. Meanwhile, these head-leaders keep injuring others but their necks never get injured. That would be the fastest way to stop them from tackling like this pathetic method. He doesn’t even use his arms, or look at who he is “tackling”. Goodell and DeMaurice Smith need to act fast.

Rob Gronkowski beat his man down the seam, and knew a safety might be lurking back there. Up until the past few years, he might take a hard shot into his ribs, chest, or even head. Nowadays, guys like Ward don’t do that. The result is the end of Gronk as we knew him.

Ward could have hit Gronkowski anywhere. But hit him higher, and it’s a harder tackle as the Gronk is a big dude. Plus there’s a chance at a fine from the league. So there’s no risk at all to Ward to dive into the big man’s knee. Well it ended Gronk’s season, and perhaps his career as we know it. It also ended the Patriots chance at a Super Bowl.

He took out the big man Gronkowski. Gronk will never be the same either, partly because his legs, knee will never be the same. “If I would’ve hit him up high, there’s a chance I was going to get a fine,” Ward said, via the Boston Globe. “It’s kind of being caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “It’s a decision you have to make, but you have to follow the rules at the same time. When they set the rule, everyone knew what was going to happen. This can happen if you have those types of situations. It’s pretty much inevitable, and they forced our hand with this one.”

Dustin Keller’s season ended before it began as the prized free agent addition had his knee blown up in the preseason by a cheap, dirty (but legal according to the outdated NFL rulebook) hit by the young safety DJ Swearninger.

This one is maybe worse than all others. Keller had his back to the young safety, but DJ Swearninger still tucked his head down and went face-down, and lowered himself into the planted leg of the star tight end. Season over because of a cheap hit that the NFL deems legal. Just last year, there were more severe injuries from this type of reckless “tackle” than caused from the horse-collar. The NFL, the competition committee, the NFLPA needs to act now, this spring, and immediately make hits like this into defenseless receivers, where the DB goes eyes down and head forward into a kknee, A) a 15-yard penalty, B) an ejection, C) a fine, and D) a suspension. Do it before there are more seasons, careers ended. And before lawsuits come. Ask Ovie Mughelli and Jordan Shipley what hits like this can do to a career.

“We will certainly discuss this at length this offseason,” Giants president and CEO John Mara, a member of the league’s competition committee and the committee on health and medical issues, wrote in an email to FOX Sports last year following the hit on Cobb. “Too early to tell if there will be a rule change. We will look at all of these plays before deciding if a rule change is warranted.”

What that means is they will look at the financials, and threats to the league’s pocketbook. That’s the bottom line to the NFL, as it is most businesses. All businesses.

But the NFL is a non-profit 501c you say? Well, Goodell’s salary last year was over $44 million.
That doesn’t sound very charitable does it?

Finances aside, it’s time now for the NFLPA and NFL to immediately put some new rules against these pathetic and dangerous types of hits that more and more safeties and cornerbacks are delivering each year.

If the hitter doesn’t even have their head up, eyes on the target, if their eyes are pointing to the turf, that’s a bad hit.

It’s not that complicated. It’s far less complicated than the hits up high that are always flagged even though the hit was into the chest sometimes, or the receiver ducked his head down as the hit came in.





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