Blog Entry

The Eric LeGrand/NFL argument

Posted on: October 20, 2010 12:41 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2010 12:42 pm

Rutgers' Eric LeGrand lays in a hospital bed this week. Paralyzed, maybe, for a lengthy period. Meanwhile, I hear talking heads arguing about outlawing NFL head shots and their effect on the "quality" of NFL play.

Seems to be a disconnect here.

These are actually otherwise intelligent human beings worried about how the NFL will "look" if it is reduced to arm tackling. Trust me, it will look fine, great even. The argument against enforcing NFL rules against headshots harkens back to the age-old arguments about reducing the number of college scholarships in football. Coaches back then also warned that the "quality" of play would be impacted. Their credibility was shot over the last two decades when the college game has become better and more popular than ever. Seems that the game has survived with less than 100 scholarships per team.

Let's worry, more realistically, about the survival of LeGrand and those like him. The Rutgers junior had bad tackling form against Army. The result was paralysis. LeGrand wasn't trying to show off or send a message or intimidate. He made a mistake. During the same week that he continues to lay motionless in that hospital bed, there is a national argument about sending those messages and intimidating in the NFL.

Someone needs to get LeGrand's situation into the argument. Maybe James Harrison needs to pay a visit to the hospital and see how he feels afterward. We are to believe that the league will be neutered if it cannot express itself physically. Do you really want to intimidate that bad? Do you really want another Eric LeGrand?

The resounding answer -- whether spoken or unspoken -- by hundreds of aggressive males in their 20s in the NFL is yes. You cannot separate one question from the other. You cannot dispute the indisputable. The size of the field remains the same. The players are bigger, faster and stronger. A lot of them don't think about such things as Darryl Stingley's tragic life after the Raiders' Jack Tatum targeted him. They rail against the league trying to reign in the likes of Harrison, the Steelers linebacker, who took out two Browns Sunday then said, "I try to hurt people."

The statement mocks not only the rules but LeGrand. It's clear now that there is a generation of players who have been raised to use their heads as a weapon. Never mind that they are putting their bodies as well as their opponents' bodies at risk. They are acting like punks. They are turning a grand game into a street fight. A punk head-butts. A football player tackles. A punk dances over the prone body of a receiver. A football player makes the stick, high fives his teammates and heads back to the huddle.

No, but this is the NFL where television, the traditional media and the players themselves glorify a corner of the league where a sick culture resides.

College football long ago tried to legislate the punk factor out of the game. Next year points will be taken off the board if an offensive player taunts during a scoring play. College rules are more inclusive in trying to eliminate head shots. I have no problem with the "targeting" rule that puts the issue up to an official's discretion. A flag can be thrown not only for a head shot but if a player is in vulnerable position.

Maybe that wouldn't have stopped LeGrand. As mentioned, the 6-foot-2, 275-pounder was guilty of nothing more than bad tackling form. Meanwhile, there is a generation of players being raised to inflict damage, not just do their jobs as defenders. If they're not punks, they do punk things on the football field. That has to be stopped.

What's wrong if the NFL is reduced to a league of arm tacklers? It's the same argument the college coaches had 20 years ago. My counter-argument was: It doesn't matter who many scholarships there are. If you suited up 22 chimps in Nebraska and Oklahoma uniforms would still pay to watch.

If the NFL was cleaned up and everyone was playing by the same rules, you think it would matter at the turnstile? They're still the best football players in the world. The more of them around, the better for everyone. Ask Eric LeGrand. He won't be one of them.

Category: NCAAF
Since: Sep 3, 2006
Posted on: October 20, 2010 10:51 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: October 20, 2010 6:41 pm

The Eric LeGrand/NFL argument

I would like to point something out about former defensive players.  take Dick Butkis for example.  Did he want to hurt people?  yep.  Did he want to lay a huge, crunching hit on other people?  yep.  But watch film of him.  he never torpedoed people like they do now.  He always led with his hands and arms to ensure the tackle, and was still able to lay the big hit on people.

Since: Apr 17, 2007
Posted on: October 20, 2010 5:26 pm

The Eric LeGrand/NFL argument

Also, Dick Butkus, Joe Green, Randy White, Jack Tatum, Chuck Bednarik. Just a few players from long ago (some longer than others) that also believed in physically hurting the opposing team and keeping them from ever playing again.

Sadly we didnt fine them and suspend them in their respective eras thus perpetuating their legacies of violence. We shouldnt have encoraged it, we should just have kept them from playing until they played nice.

I just dont understand, in 2008 the Washington Huskies lost to BYU because after marching down and scoring a game saving TD the officials called a very questionable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the huskies procceded to have the extra point blocked that would have tied the game up. If you recall the big fuss that year was about beefing up the enforcement of the aforementioned penalties.

How long do you think it will be before a game goes from late in the 4th quarter and "Great play on 4th down" to "Well the official had a bad angle so I guess it looked like an unneccesary hit to him... 1st and goal!"

Since: Apr 17, 2007
Posted on: October 20, 2010 5:03 pm

The Eric LeGrand/NFL argument

I figured as soon as I noticed that Dodd wrote an article about his take on the NFL;s new stricter enforcement of this helmet to helmet stuff that he would be all for it.

To be honest I only read about the first 3 or 4 paragraphs but based on most of the other crap he writes I cant stand it. I am sure that Dodd who has never played and always been a spectator would know just as well as most of the current and ex players about the effect that it would have on the game.

I like that you bring up LeGrand, he was making a tackle and had bad form. I believe one of the last people to have temorary peralysis in the NFL was that guy for the Bills, I believe his name was Everette or something (I am sorry I cannot remember) but his situation was the same, bad tackling form and he was injured. The worst hit I watched this weekend was the Atlanta hit on DeSaun Jackson and that was terrible form and he also injured himself.

If you want to start fixing this problem teach them how to tackle, dont INTIMIDATE them into not tackling. I am all for suspending players and fining them for clearly blatant hits but these fines are being issued by guys just like Dodd, guys that dont play, have never played, and think they know what is going on.

Do you really want to intimidate that bad? Do you really want another Eric LeGrand?The resounding answer -- whether spoken or  unspoken -- by hundreds of aggressive males in their 20s in the NFL is yes. You cannot separate one question from the other.
Yes Dodd, what about most of the analysts that are former players and coaches, people that have been out of the game for years but are not "aggresive males in their 20's" and feel the same way? Hmm I guess that doesnt make sense does it... Well its a shame that the NFL's viewing audience of soccer moms and Dennis Dodd feel that this game is just too violent, if only there were some way to attach flags or something to the players so that they dont have to tackle at all! Wouldnt that be great!

Finally I would like to say that if you think this is a new development and we need to stop this so that future generations dont only get worse then why dont you look at historically great defensive players. Guys like Deacon Jones who literally said that he wanted to end peoples careers out on the field. Go back and look at the older defensive mentality, most players thought that it was their job to hurt the other team quite literally. Things have gotten much better and players are more conscious of playing the game without doing serious damage to other players.

The NFL and football is fine the way it is, quit softening it up and PLEASE dont let people like dennis dodd have any say in what goes on. People that play and actually put themselves at risk should have a say, not spectators.

Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: October 20, 2010 4:35 pm

The Eric LeGrand/NFL argument

A grand game?  Good God man, look at the history of the NFL.  It's always been a street fight, save for the last couple of decades when legislation against things like leg whips, clotheslines, chop blocks, etc. have been initiated. 

I'm not saying I disagree with the line of thought, I'm just saying you need some perspective. 

These are professional athletes, and they are paid huge sums of money precisely to put their bodies on the line.  Of course they try not to think about Stingley and many of the others who have been paralyzed; who could play a game with that thought in their head?  Who thinks about Ray Chapman every time he steps into the batters box?  Who remembers Rudy Tomjonavich every time he drives into the lane?  You cannot play that way.

The league's job is to try to find a way to protect the players without doing irreparable harm to the game.  You yourself point out that LeGrand was NOT trying to spear.  So outlawing that tactic would have had no effect.  Leading with the helmet is already a penalty, as is grabbing the face mask, making a horsecollar tackle, and the infamous "blow to the head." 

People complain because football is a violent game, and they're paying lots of money for the violence, the same way some people pay to see wrecks in NASCAR or fights in hockey games.  It will take some time, but it will have an effect; football has become better because it has become controlled violence, the same way that basketball has become better when the rules (and better enforcement of them) eliminated the need for each team to have an "enforcer."  Ditto hockey. 

About these latter things, you are right.  But a "grand game"?  Nyet.

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