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NFL, Media Vilifying Meriweather, Robinson, Harrison Over Concussions

The now holier-than-thou NFL has made Steelers linebacker James Harrison its poster boy for concussions and helmet-to-helmet hits. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)

Enough is enough.

After an NFL weekend that featured an unusually high number of concussions, talking heads and media types have beaten the story into the ground, and managed to vilify a few players in the process.

There is no question the hit by Brandon Meriweather was illegal and has no place on the football field, but what about the hits by James Harrison and Dunta Robinson? Those hits were within the rules of the game.

Harrison’s helmet-to-helmet contact with Josh Cribbs was perfectly legal, because Cribbs was a running back on the play, not a defenseless receiver. The only reason it’s getting attention as a “dirty hit”  is that a concussion resulted from it.

And what was Harrison supposed to do about Mohamed Massoquoi bending over at the last split second? How is he supposed to make an adjustment?

He isn’t, because he can’t.

And why was Massaquoi running through zone coverage instead of sitting down in a soft area like he was supposed to?

Why did Colt McCoy stare down Massaquoi for five seconds before he threw him the ball, and lead him unknowingly into the path of an oncoming linebacker?

These are the questions that need to be asked before the NFL punishes a player with a $75,000 fine for simply doing his job, within the rules of the game.

Can we please agree that the majority of the sports world is guilty of a big overreaction?

It’s unfortunate that concussions resulted from the hits delivered by Robinson and Harrison. Certainly concussions are something that the league needs to take very seriously. But to some extent aren’t concussions an inevitability in today’s NFL? Regardless of whether or not a player leads with his helmet?

“I don’t think that you can say every time there’s one of those hits and a guy gets knocked out that a guy should be suspended for it. I just don’t think we can be that black and white,” said Steelers owner Art Rooney.

Hits similar to those that led to four concussions on Sunday have happened on NFL fields in the past, and they will continue to happen in the future. There’s no getting around this simple fact. Unless you want to completely change the game as we know it.

“This game always been violent,” said Redskins running back Clinton Portis.

“People like to see the mano a mano side of things. Like to see people collide. That’s what makes football.”

I agree Clinton.

Perhaps you could do what the NFL executives have done, and hit players guilty of helmet-to-helmet hits with $50,000 and $75,000 fines.

Certainly the officials aren’t to blame. No punishment has been given to refs who twice failed to throw a flag when Browns wide receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi were concussed in the same game.

If a player isn’t penalized during the game, how is he supposed to know he’s done something wrong? I guess he has to wait until the league hits him with a $75,000 fine the following Wednesday to understand the ramifications of what he did on Sunday.

Apparently the media frenzy was too tempting for ESPN’s Rick Reilly, who decided it would be better to vilify Meriweather, Harrison, and Robinson than provide readers with any semblance of insightful analysis in his most recent column.

By Rick Reilly,

“What shoved boxing off the console TVs in this country was the I-can’t-watch-this-anymore of it, and the wife turning away at the sight of slaughter.

Now the same thing is starting to happen in the NFL. The only difference is, the slaughter takes years to get here. It shows up later, when the retired tight end can’t remember where he parked his truck or the 45-year-old receiver forgets his niece’s name. It gets worse from there.

Yet the NFL still rarely suspends players who deal out stomach-turning, life-altering, helmet-to-helmet hits. Instead, it only fines them. This week’s fines were $50,000 to $75,000. That’s it? These guys have that in their couch cushions.

The first to be stopped should be Pittsburgh Steelers hired headhunter James Harrison, who used his helmet to knock not just one Cleveland Brown out of the game, but two, then issued words that were even uglier than his deeds:”

Read the rest of the story.

A very close friend of mine sent me the following e-mail. I think it really captures not only the reality of the situation facing the NFL, but the cowardice and hypocritical nature of Reilly’s article as well.

Here are my thoughts, expressed to Rick Reilly on the ESPN website in response to his column ripping into James Harrison:

“Rick, spare me this sanctimonious crap please. This is the NFL’s so-called “product,” they’ve been selling it for years. Until last season, your employer ran a Monday night segment called “Jacked Up” where announcers (most of them former players) cackled over these kinds of hits every week. And now you want to make James Harrison the bad guy?

You know very well what Harrison was saying regarding “hurt” versus “injure” and it is the essence of the game. Teams that out-hit the other teams usually win the game. It is a brutal game and that’s how it works. And it’s not just on defense. Witness the Steelers vs. Ravens AFC championship game from the 2008-2009 season – Ravens defensive backs were leaving on stretchers because of hits by Steelers WRs…

I understand that new information on head injuries and their long-term effects continues to be brought forward. I know all about Mike Webster and Andre Waters and others. I am not saying that actions don’t need to be taken. However, it is hypocritical in the extreme to villify players such as James Harrison for playing the game the way they have played it for years, all within the rules and common practices of the sport. Try jumping off the bandwagon for a more reasoned analysis next time. I admire your work and you can do a lot better than this.”

This could be addressed just as easily to Peter King or Adam Schefter or any of the many others who make their living from the sport but get all holier-than-thou on a moment’s notice (unless of course in Peter’s case it involves Brett Favre…).

Does it need to be cleaned up? Probably it does, no one deserves to be incapacitated in later life because his employer failed to protect him, and we know now that this stuff is dangerous. But making these individual guys the poster boys and villains for this effort is just chickensh*t on the part of the NFL. They are just playing the game the way it has evolved. But unfortunately, the real game involves the owners and the “image is everything” NFL front office, and the oodles of money to be made from all of us poor stupid fans.”

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3 comments for “NFL, Media Vilifying Meriweather, Robinson, Harrison Over Concussions”

  1. “This week’s fines were $50,000 to $75,000. That’s it? These guys have that in their couch cushions.”

    What? Meriweather is making 617,280 this year. Fining him 50,000 takes away about 8% of his salary. All for doing his job, a little too rough.

    If Reilly who probably makes 50K a year made a dumb comment and was fined 8% of his salary ($4,000 dollars), OOoooo you know he would be fuming.

    This has been SO overblown

    Posted by DanPitrowiski | October 21, 2010, 1:10 pm
  2. Maybe they should just change the rules and make the game touch football.

    Now the debate can rage… 1 hand or 2….

    Posted by VanB | October 21, 2010, 2:20 pm
  3. Reilley is just trying to start some shit.

    Media hit rock bottom it seems at least every month.

    Posted by JohnsonGreek | October 21, 2010, 9:29 pm

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