Nobody wants to see any player suffer serious injury. The image of New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley lying on the field after a vicious hit from Oakland’s Jack Tatum is still etched in my mind, though the tragic event happened in 1977.
That said, it seems to me that in its effort to protect players, the NFL might be asking the impossible in some cases. Some of the calls on these hits presume that the safety, often coming with a full head of steam, can shift his head in a split-second or that his aim is good enough to avoid the clash of helmets as he and the receiver are both moving fast and sometimes in different directions.
“It’s something the league is trying to make a statement on,” Tampa Bay safety John Lynch said. “We all don’t agree with it, but it’s their mandate now.”
Through the first nine games this season, the league has issued fines and/or suspensions 19 times for helmet infractions. That’s actually one fewer than the total number of fines for the first nine games of 2001, but last season there were no suspensions during that time.
It’s the severity of punishment that has been stepped up.
Dallas Cowboys safety Darren Woodson was fined $75,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Seattle wideout Darrell Jackson. Jackson, who suffered a concussion, had a seizure after the game that doctors said could have been life-threatening.
— Mike Bruton, The Philadelphia Inquirer “Crackdown on helmet hits already causing some players to change their tackling style”