SL Discussion Thread for Week of May 31

This is your thread to talk about … well, whatever you want.

– Hopefully everybody had an enjoyable holiday weekend, and if you live anywhere in the mid-west, hopefully you enjoyed the 90 degree temperatures and thick humidity. That was fun. When you have to turn on the cold water in the shower and stick your head under it for a couple of minutes, clothes and all, you know it’s damn hot.

– I’ll have more on this on Tuesday, but Ron Cook is all about the Steelers bringing back Plaxico Burress. [Post-Gazette]

– Warren Sapp isn’t impressed with the comments made by James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Sapp, of course, also has a rule named after him. [USA Today]

– Speaking of James Harrison, he’s moved on from the world of Twitter to the world of blogging. [James Harrison]

– And for your random YouTube: Here’s Willie Parker going 80 yards for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns…

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  • Greg3T

    After reading the Sports Illustrated article about Tressel, I went back to the Steelers website to see the Draft press conferences of Cameron Heyward.  No tattoos!

  • GlennW

    James Harrison’s comments via his blog are now much more thoughtful and reasoned than in his previous tweet.  I think he’s mistaken or exaggerating with his interpretation of the new “defensiveless receiver” definition (you “have to let them catch the ball before you can even attempt to tackle him”– no, you’re just not supposed to hit high under those conditions), but his points on incidental helmet/facemask contact are well taken.  As I said before I’m reserving judgment on how the officials will actually call these kind of plays, but I seriously doubt they’ll be throwing the flag every other down which (as Harrison says) is about how often you’ll see such contact.  We’ll see.  In any case, it’s good that Harrison has dropped the “idiots” ad hominem and the like and is now defending his position in a reasonable manner.  The league might even listen to such logical arguments (not in rescinding any rules changes/clarifications, but as to how such penalties/fines might be meted).

    • Anonymous

      agreed, this criticism was much better.  I wish people would stop trying to make complex and/or controversial statements via twitter (looking at you Mendy and Silverback).

      I do share James’ concern over what this rule change means.  So far all of the explanations I have heard of it talk about “launching” or “helmet to helmet” but I thought those were already verboten, so is there a “change” other than fining the team for player infractions? Seems to me the league could have just clarified the rule and announced stricter enforcement.

      I still have doubts about how a ref will be able to determine “intent” on these plays.  Opinions vary on James’s hit on Massaquoi and the hit on D.Jackson…where those intentional and penalties or did the reciever run into them/drop their heads or what?  The problem I have with the whole controversy is that inconsistent punishment or interpretation of rules could cause some serious problems.

      • Anonymous

        A receiver is now considered defenseless after attempting to complete a catch, whether successful or not, until he has time to ward off or avoid contact. That seriously hampers the tactic of defending a pass by dislodging a catch immediately after the reception. “Time to ward or avoid” seems pretty similar to “time to make a football move” unless avoiding a hit is not a football move. So all those hits right after reception that cause what used to be fumbles are unchanged. But those hits right after reception that cause incompletion are now hits against defenseless players which carry certain prohibitions making a hit at the shoulder level or above illegal or impractical.

        • GlennW

          Yes.  This is really the only change that I can discern (in this area).  No hitting high at all until the receiver has established some position/control/vision after a catch.  I still contend that this kind of contact is fairly rare.  Harrison on Massaquoi was one such instance (which wasn’t penalized on the field btw, but did draw a fine which would suggest that the league thought the play should have been penalized even under the existing rules– for helmet-to-helmet contact or spearing, regardless of timing).

          • Anonymous

            But doesn’t a rule that makes such hits illegal (regardless of how rare they may be) change the game?  By that I mean now the WR has to be less concerned with getting hit as he is attempting to make the catch, doesn’t this take some of the psychological factors out of the game?

          • GlennW

            Sure.  It changes the game somewhat, but I don’t think in a revolutionary manner.  As I alluded to before, I don’t think outlawing the forearm shiver that prematurely ended Lynn Swann’s career or the fairly late helmet-to-helmet contact that broke Darryl Stingley’s neck– there was no flag per the rules at the time– ruined the sport for a lack of intimidation either.  (Seriously, were those kind of tactics– employed by the Raiders *and* Steelers, folks– really worth the damage caused, and did removing them alter the essence of hard-hitting football?  No.)  Likewise, this latest change says that if you’re out to “intimidate” a defenseless receiver, you’re going to have to do it by blasting through his body (which can be plenty devastating enough), just not his neck/head.  I really think way too big a deal is being made of this change to place an emphasis on simply not hitting high in these few circumstances.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

            I don’t disagree with anything you said.  It’s just that history shows that they’ll take a good idea/intention and screw it up with sloppy implementation and wildly inconsistent enforcement. That’s what I think will screw up the game.

          • Anonymous

            I agree with Bob Costas and Intropy (or at least as I understand Intropy’s point) that while the “idea” of reducing concussions and eliminating some of these more egregious hits is good, I’m not sure that (1) this rule will actually do that, and more importantly (2) for as rare as these big hits really are that it is worth even risking a change in the way the game is played to eliminate them.  

            I understand and respect you views on the matter GlennW, and FWIW, I hope you are right on this issue.

          • Anonymous

            I agree the change is not revolutionary. I do think it’s an incremental negative change, though. I think we also disagree on the frequency of the hits in question, which could be determined by watching some games. I don’t think intimidation is an issue either. I also don’t think banning blows to the head or neck in these cases would be a bad thing but for a few issues.

            First, the shoulders are an ideal place to hit to jar a ball loose, and with the proximity of the head, there are going to be accidental and incidental contacts made, especially given how big football helmets are, when tackles are aimed at the shoulders. And given the track record of calls of related fouls, even when the lion’s share of force is transmitted to the shoulders, the foul will often be called. Given the chance of incidental helmet contact, I think the rule could have a chilling effect on defensive players using the tactic at all. I think that would be a loss to the game.

            Second, not having time to ward or avoid a blow does not mean the receiver hasn’t had time to _attempt_ to ward or avoid the blow. Such an attempt is very likely to move the head causing a blow that would otherwise have been to the upper back or shoulder to hit the helmet. I do not think it is right that a defender should be responsible for anticipating those kinds of movements. I also think its potentially dangerous to provide the receiver with a perverse incentive like that. A crafty receiver could earn another 15 yards by “blocking” a tackle with his head. It’s not in the best interest of either the players or the game to encourage the use of the helmet as a sort of shield.

            You mentioned above banning head blows altogether. That’s more symmetrical, and I think a much better solution. Any blow to the head or using the head would be illegal. In such cases the referee could determine accidental/incidental = no foul, or assign fault and foul to either player involved, or determine that the contact is the fault of both players and penalize both.

          • GlennW

            > You mentioned above banning head blows altogether.  That’s more symmetrical, and I think a much better solution.

            Well, such head blows are already banned.  What I meant (and have been saying) is that I’m fine with this latest ban on all head *and* neck/shoulder blows to a defenseless receiver (only– the rule change doesn’t affect high non-helmet contact with an established ballcarrier).  We just have an honest difference of opinion here on the alternatives to the defender and the impact to the sport.  But frankly, many of these high hits are already being penalized anyway (such as the Jackson hit previously referenced).  I can’t and don’t expect an official to be superhuman and to be able to tell whether initial contact started at the helmet, or just promptly ended up there (and this is where much of the inconsistency that fans have been complaining about comes into play).  I think it’s more straightforward (and still non-damaging to the sport) for an official to see it and call it as such: defenseless, very high, whiplash, penalty.  Again, that’s what they’re largely doing anyway.

            I can’t go along with the notion of a receiver intentionally inducing helmet contact though.  Not only is that a very brave receiver, but an extremely talented one to be able to pull that off while simultaneously concentrating on catching the football.  Regardless, as you say such head movement often occurs incidentally anyway.  But if the defender isn’t going high, the receiver’s head movements don’t matter (unless he completely turtles, and then I’d like to see the defender receive the benefit of the doubt– same distinction as the official currently has to make for helmet-to-helmet).  That’s part of the point of the rule change/clarification, actually– if you’re not hitting high, you don’t have a problem.

      • GlennW

        LL, I think these rule “changes” are really clarifications in definition with more precise language as much as anything.  For example previously there was no explicit prohibition against “launching”, but if a player did so and hit to the head or neck (which is already prohibited) he would almost certainly be flagged just the same.

        As for intent, I didn’t see anything about that in the new rules language.  My assumption is that a hit like Harrison’s on Massaquoi will be penalized period, because Harrison dropped his head and used the crown of his helmet straight on to a defenseless receiver, regardless of what/where he thought the target was.  I can live with that.  What I can’t live with are penalties for glancing contact with the helmet, or initial contact with the facemask below the neck (I seriously doubt either will be called as a common rule, because as Harrison suggests/exaggerates this would spell the end of tackle football).  That’s more about “incidence” than “intent”, but sure, as with most penalties there will always be the few tough calls at the borderline between obvious infraction and acceptable contact.  I don’t think intent per se will much matter though– brutal head/neck shots will just be flagged as a matter of course.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_UR6KXGPFIFYZSVJNCXCJNHDQJQ Bob Costas

          I am just worried that this will be yet another penalty that is called completely inconsistently.  Or turn into a justification for fining players after the fact, which as we have already seen is completely inconsistent.  I don’t think I can put as much faith as you do in the people making the rules.  They are the same people who fined Woodley for sacking a quarterback “in an intimidating manner”.

          • GlennW

            These kind of plays are already penalized/fined inconsistently– this is the nature of the beast.  The NFL is just now moving the bar (slightly) on the ”defenseless receiver” standard.  If anything, a “no head shots period” application independent of intent/timing might be more consistently called.

            To be honest I think the bigger concern with fans is the elimination from the sport of some of these most devastating hits we’ve come to know and love.  I also enjoy the semi-controlled violence of football, but feel that considering the hard evidence, the league doesn’t have much choice but to take some action.  The NFL is not alone on the concussion issue; the NHL is dealing with it too and the hammer is coming down there too.  It wasn’t fun losing Sidney Crosby, even though the hits on him were “clean” but still high and late (and unnecessary imo as part of the game, at least the first one).  So do you protect the players, or tradition?

        • Anonymous

          So GlennW, what is your opinion of hit on Jackson?

          • GlennW

            The Dunta Robinson hit on DeSean Jackson?  Definite penalty.  Indeed, a penalty was called on the field even though Jackson was possessing the football (before the hit), so as I’ve said in practical application I think this latest rule “change” is mostly just a clarification.  Lowered helmet, shoulder-high hit, helmet then sliding under Jackson’s facemask snapping his neck back.  Jackson doesn’t duck into the contact either.  I have little doubt but that Robinson could have just as easily blasted through Jackson’s midsection, still jacking him up and jarring the ball loose.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3Mpk8vI7vo

          • HoosierSteeler?

            Here’s my beef with all of this discussion:

            Look at Deebo’s hit on Massaquoi (and Cribbs from that game): 

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSi4Po8NvK4 

            In both of those hits the part of the Browns player closest to Harrison is their helmet. Is that not an offensive player leading into contact with their helmet lower than head-level? What type of contact could Harrison initiate that does not involve the offensive players helmet beyond laying on the ground and reaching up with his hands? Both of those hits Harrison has the initial contact about 3-4 feet off the ground, not where a players helmet should be (if they are not leading with THEIR hemet).

            I think these rules only make sense if an equal number of flags are thrown against OFFENSIVE players who initiate contact with their hemet into defensive players. Anything other than that is just a bias to increase scoring under the guise of player safety. Defensive players are not the only ones responsible for helmet-to-helmet collisions, it takes two (and they should be equally punished.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning
    • GlennW

      Pretty silly.  Somehow I suspect that the next time the Bengals are in the playoffs, this guy will be back on the bandwagon.  I know that the Bengals’ history isn’t good, but they haven’t exactly been the Lions over the past decade.  Hell, the Bengals won the division the season before last.