November 21, 2012
When I found out Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed received a 1-game suspension for the “repeat offender” rule with illegal hits, I almost fell out of my chair. I couldn’t believe the hit Reed put on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders last Sunday night warranted a flag, let alone a fine or suspension. I did feel a little bit better when I found out Reed won his appeal and got the suspension reduced to a $50,000 fine, but I still believe the fine is too harsh. I agreed with Reed when he said it’s a shame it had to come to the point where he would have to appeal a suspension. The truth is the NFL is walking a fine line between trying to protect the players and turning this sport into glorified flag-football. I understand what the NFL is trying to do in terms of trying to make the safety of the players the top priority. The research conducted for concussions and getting the best equipment possible to protect the players is second to none. My main issue is how the league wants to govern the physicality of a sport that’s known for that exact feature. You can do everything in the world to try and eliminate injuries and promote safety, but you will never be able to fully take away the physical nature of football. This is a violent sport in which players are bigger, better, faster, and stronger than ever before, and injuries are going to happen no matter what rules the league tries to put in place. The thing with this particular case involving Reed is the hit wasn’t even that severe, definitely not worthy of a fine or suspension. One thing I believe is lacking from the NFL’s judgement of big hits and player safety is something that should be second nature, common sense. People who have been around the game, particularly the ones who have played, should understand the violent nature of the game. They should know the natural reactions of players when they play, such as how an offensive player will protect himself when he sees a defender coming at him like a missile. That reaction will force the player with the ball to curl up and brace himself for the hit, which will cause the head and neck to go lower. This, combined with the defender already being at full speed, will cause a helmet-to-helmet hit, and anything helmet-to-helmet seems to draw a flag these days. This is simply not fair to a defender, who is expected to adjust almost in mid-flight in order to avoid contact to the head. I believe the league, especially the referees who work the games, have to use better judgement and not penalize the players for what seem to be good solid plays. I can understand if the player is flagged for intentionally head-hunting, but Reed wasn’t doing that in this play and has never been the guy to head-hunt in my eyes. I just think a fine, and a suspension before that, is way too harsh and isn’t warranted for this case. Again, I’m glad to see the NFL review the hit and lift the suspension, but it shouldn’t have to come down to that. Football has never been harder to play for a defender than it is right now. The only way things can be made easier is if the league helps them out. Otherwise, it may be time to get the flags out before too long.
By Charles Taylor