NFL news of November 1, 2002

We now go to that noted football thespian, Lawrence Taylor, pusher of the quote, both delicious and nonsensical, a Hall of Fame linebacker who never met a quarterback he didn’t chop like firewood. Taylor was interviewed on ESPN this week, his bald head gleaming, his muscles bulging under a tight sweater, when the subject of disciplining N.F.L. players for cheap-shot hits was tossed around.

…When Taylor played for the Giants, he ate running backs and brontosaurus burgers for supper. But do not mistake his attitude as the rant of a wild man still searching for a post-career purpose. Too many players and coaches in the N.F.L. believe as Taylor does: a hit is a hit is a hit. Lead with your helmet, launching your body like a human rocket booster? No problem. Separating the football from the receiver has become the pro football code for separating a receiver from his cranium.

Pig-headed coaches like Marty Schottenheimer and Mike Shanahan defend questionable hits. They are not alone among the coaching brethren, just the loudest. Many in this camp wrongly portray Washington as an English butler, a softy who is turning the bad-boy N.F.L. into creamy mush. Actually, Washington is a lone, brave centurion, preventing the league from slipping into its primordial origins, when the game had no face masks, few rules and carcasses strewn on the 50-yard line.

…What’s happening now is that players are being coached — yes, instructed — to lead with their heads more often and, in the football vernacular, ”blow up” the wide receiver, especially in the middle of the field, as a way of intimidation.

The N.F.L. has suspended two players this season for helmet-to-helmet collisions — Denver’s Kenoy Kennedy and San Diego’s Rodney Harrison.

From 1993 until this year, only one player, Mark Carrier, was suspended for that type of hit.

…The N.F.L. needs to suspend the headhunters for multiple games. Costing the players and their teams victories is the only way to teach a long-lasting lesson, one that will keep players alive.

— Mike Freeman, New York Times “N.F.L. needs to crack down on potentially lethal hits”

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