The question of how to protect football players from hits to the head has yielded congressional testimony and at least one brightly colored poster, but the issue took on added urgency following a weekend of action that saw a Rutgers player paralyzed from the neck down while covering a kick and a handful of the most horrific helmet-to-helmet hits in NFL history. Will the events of the past 48 hours be a tipping point? A sampling of opinions from around the Web, including theories about what changes might be in store:
- Dirty Plays Former NFL Vice President of Officiating Mike Pereira--now a Fox Sports columnist--notes that while not all of the hits Sunday were illegal, they clearly violated the competitive spirit of the game. "Some of them were legal, and some were unavoidable," concedes Pereira, "but, plain and simple, they are cheap shots, and the league needs to deal with this immediately." He predicts Sunday's action--including the blows delivered by New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison--will be closely scrutinized as the league tries to determine which hits "involving the head or neck area can be legislated out of the game." Pereira notes the league is also examining the feasibility of outlawing "a runner leading with his helmet and a defender tackling a runner by leading with his helmet," plays that are already illegal at the college level.
- Horrific Sports Illustrated's Peter King can't remember a more violent day of NFL action. "The games we watched Sunday seemed as violent a collection as I've seen," writes King. If anything, the action should convince NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that upping the number of regular season games from sixteen to eighteen is a terrible idea. "Eighteen games? Are you serious? Tell the six Eagles who've suffered concussions this year -- we're six weeks into the season -- that adding two games is no big hazard to your health."
- Progress The mere fact the hits provoked such outrage is a sign of how seriously people around football are taking the head injury issue, explains ESPN's John Clayton. "The league," writes Clayton, "has come a long way since 2009, when [Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben] Roethlisberger was criticized by teammates for not playing because of a concussion. Now, players with concussions have to go through plenty of tests just to get back on the field." Nonetheless, "the NFL still has a long way to go" when it comes to the prevention of helmet-to-helmet hits.
- Viable Deterrent? No stranger to doling out jarring hits, former Chargers and Patriots safety Rodney Harrison contends suspensions are the best way to deter cheap shots. "Fining me five or ten grand really didn't affect me," said Harrison on NBC last night. "But I got to a point where they suspended me...that's what they're going to have to do to change the nature of these hits."