Violence in NFL, college needs to be addressed
On the same field, the New Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey, two football players went down in two days on kickoff returns and had to be carted off and sent to the hospital.
On Saturday during the Rutgers-Army game, Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand collided with an Army player on a kickoff return.He suffered a spinal cord injury, underwent lengthy surgery and the hope is that one day he will be able to walk again. But nothing is certain at this point. In one play his life changes.
On Sunday, at the same field, Lions linebacker Zack Follett crumbled to the turf after a helmet-to-helmet hit on a kickoff. Luckily, his news seems much more optimistic. Test news was positive and he flew back to Detroit on Monday.
Football has gotten so violent that Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson said he’s glad to get out of each game without an injury.
He said when QB Shaun Hill went out with a broken arm in the first half Sunday, then Follett had to be carted off on a back board, it did not give him the feeling of what or who would be next and there was good reason for that.
“I would feel sorry for myself and this team but this is such a violent sport and being in it eight years nothing surprises me,’’ Burleson said. “When I was younger in the NFL I always was caught off-guard by how many injuries I see, but nowadays I’m thankful to make it through a game, as fast and as big and as hard as these guys hit. It’s tough. The thing that makes us comfortable is knowing that the guy stepping in has done that job previously.’’
Kicker Jason Hanson has a little different perspective since he’s in his 19th year in the league, not to mention he’s a kicker.
“It’s a violent game out there. I sit back, I used to sometimes think I was one of the guys, you see what they’re doing I could never withstand that. It’s incredibly powerful and some of it’s the nature of the game. Some (way to change it is) they have to take more precautions, some of it will be the guys realizing ‘I can’t hit that way I’m putting everyone in jeopardy, myself and the other player,’’’ Hanson said.
With a few violent head-on collisions in Sunday’s games, the issue of violence is being revisited this week.
Violence has to be controlled in some fashion or no one will be left to play the game. Parents are watching and have to make the decision whether they want their child to play in such a violent environment.
Burleson said if he had the choice his son would grow up to play a non-violent sport like golf or baseball.
“It’s a dilemma the league will face for a long time because it’s a game where you hit each other,’’ Hanson said.
The NFL has now said they will monitor illegal hits more closely.
Ray Anderson, the NFL vice president of football operations, said on an ESPN radio show on Tuesday that the league is watching and will be enforcing the existing rules regarding head shots more closely.
"If there are flagrant and egregious violations of our current rules, we will be enforcing effective immediately discipline at a higher level," Anderson said. "We need to get our players firmly in line with the current rules, and that's what our intentions are, effective immediately."
It’s a step. No one is certain if it will be enough.
(Paula Pasche covers the Lions. Follow her on Twitter @PaulaPasche. Read her Lions Lowdown blog at TheOaklandPress.com.)