Perhaps now the NFL will realize it has a problem.
Rob Gronkowski, arguably the best tight end by far when he’s healthy, had his season cut short when he tore his ACL and MCL in his right knee.
Many people will blame Browns safety T.J. Ward for the hit on Gronk’s knees but NFL players have no choice now. Anywhere near the head is a no fly zone so defensive players have naturally migrated south in terms of where they hit people.
Randall Cobb was also taken out at the knees back in Week 6. If you remember, Aaron Rodgers barked about the injustice on the field, but his argument was and is futile.
The hardest thing for a defensive player is to disseminate where they will hit someone in the fraction of a second they have to make a tackle. It’s a bang-bang play. There have been plenty of times this season where a defensive player was punished for a hit that he had no way of preventing.
I completely understand the argument to prevent player’s melons. With the latest CTE research that bridges a link between hard hits to the head — causing Alzheimer’s, mind-numbing headaches and complete physical pain. Which is why the NFL agreed to a $765 million settlement for the over 4,500 former players that suffered from serious head injuries. What’s forgotten about was figuring out when the NFL had the CTE research presented to them and continued to do nothing.
All the NFL is doing is now is transferring those nasty hits from the head and forcing players to target the knees. So instead of seeing retired players with dementia, you’ll see guys hobbling on reconstructed knees that have coat-zipper scars. And there’s been plenty of those guys before they changed the defensive rules.
So where does that leave the NFL? And no, I’m not going to preach about a so-called wussification, or that the league will be morphed into elevated flag football.
Over the years, the helmet has been used as a weapon. Former Packers safety Chuck Cecil made a living by spearing players and even had the cut nose each game to prove it.
Technically, the helmet is supposed to be a safety device, but how many guys wear them the right way anyway? I mean, look at A.J. Hawk. It seems like his hat pops off almost every game. And he’s not alone, there are plenty of guys that have to go chasing their helmet like a boy trying to find his lost puppy.
Eliminating helmets isn’t going to be the total answer. I imagine there will be plenty of questionable guys that lower their head at first but after realizing they don’t have any insurance up there it should quickly slow down.
And obviously, I’m not naive to think that knee injuries would disappear. But at least it wouldn’t force a defender to lower his target area on purpose because he didn’t want to be flagged and or fined.
Nobody wants to wake up to the 2030 season and watch a game with their grandkids that they no longer recognize.
The NFL is in a twisted dichotomy. It’s the barbaric nature that draws people to its game but it’s that same violence that puts its own players on hospital beds. According to MMQB.com, there are 269 players currently on NFL reserve lists. The Packers lead the league with 14.
So by stripping the NFL of its safety, you’d also be wiping away a piece of danger as well.
But a helmetless league isn’t going to prevent a player from blowing an ACL after getting it stuck in the turf or tearing his Achilles on a non-contact play.
Ever since kids began playing Pop Warner football, they have assumed a certain amount of risk. And that risk has exponentially increased each year as the players get bigger and stronger.
But that doesn’t mean that brains should be abused by defensive players that apparently don’t have any regard for their own.
The only way to save the game of football from itself is by turning back the clock to a time when you played in the backyard. I don’t remember lowering my head to make a tackle back then and I don’t think defensive players will be as apt to aim at the knees without a helmet.
The future safety of the NFL’s players lies in its past.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn