Running back Eddie Lacy rushes with the football during the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
And every fan of any NFL team will tend to believe that their roster is hit the hardest. As a fan of the Green Bay Packers, I can attest to this theory. We are unsure each week if we are going to be able to dress enough healthy players. Star players like Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Brad Jones, Mike Neal, Jermichael Finley, James Jones and Randall Cobb are sitting on the sidelines for multiple weeks?
It must be a conspiracy, right?
Week 7 alone brought a laundry list of big names into the injury mix. Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs, Reggie Wayne, Sam Bradford, Brian Cushing, Jermichael Finley, Doug Martin … just to name a few of the headliners. That’s a lot of star players, some of which are lost for the season.
So, what is going on around the NFL if it isn’t a team conspiracy?
Players are getting too big, too fast and too strong. You may be saying, ‘what? no such thing! The bigger, stronger and faster they get … the better the game gets!’ and you would be right.
BUT for the wrong reasons. You see, the game is getting better ONLY in entertainment value. It isn’t getting better in player health and safety. It isn’t getting better at sustaining long-tenured careers and it isn’t getting better at promoting life after football.
It’s for the fans, not the players.
There are many opinions on how to make the game safer … but would it come at the expense of making it less fun to watch? Probably.
In any event, here are some ideas to consider:
1. Weight Restrictions — this comes as no surprise. Listen, our bodies are malleable. The more iron you pump, the more muscle you gain. It’s physics. But, tendons and ligaments and bones do not grow with gym frequency. You have the anatomical supporting cast that you will have, no matter what. These parts are made to support pre-football body types. You can’t expect hamstrings to support 50 pounds more weight than it was intended to; at least, not effectively. ACL tears and hamstring pulls are all related to the amount of weight and pressure that is put on these ordinary body structures, at the stopping and starting speeds of a Cheetah. Your body is just not meant to be utilized in the ways that modern NFL players require.
New York Giants running back Michael Cox (29) runs back a kickoff against the Indianapolis Colts during the second quarter of a preseason game at MetLife Stadium. The kick-off is one of the most exciting – and dangerous – plays in all of football. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports photograph
2. Eliminate Kickoffs — it is one of the most dangerous aspects of the game. Grown, oversized men are running full speed at one another from opposite ends of the field. Collisions are inevitable and, as stated above: the bigger the men, the harder the fall. Kickoffs are easily one of the most exhilarating parts of the game, too. There are few things more enjoyable than seeing your kickoff returner take it 109-yards to the house, bouncing off defenders, hurdling the kicker and front flipping into the end zone.
3. Prevent the Zone — zone coverage is dangerous because you have safeties that sit over the top of routes, monitoring the field. As in the case of Jermichael Finley during the contest with the Cleveland Browns, he was a defenseless receiver, just coming down with the ball — he already had a defender hanging onto him as the safety came barreling down from the secondary to “close the deal.” The deal was nearly closed already, he was heading for the ground, having been defensed from the get-go. But allowing the safety to sit back and stare down the routes hands over a distinct advantage to the defense: a running start. It’s dangerous and it sees blinded receivers leave the field on a stretcher.
4. Fines, not Flags — a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty is not enough to get your point across in the NFL. It may not even cost your team points. But it could end someone’s career. We saw that happen to Nick Collins two years ago. A neck injury ended his promising season with the Green Bay Packers and he hasn’t donned a football jersey since. It’s not even just about football … what of life after? Head injuries are not a joke, neck and knee injuries are not a joke. Players who commit these fouls should be hit in the wallet first and then suspended. It’s the only way that players will start taking it seriously.
In short, imagine a football game with smaller players, no kickoffs, strictly man-to-man defense and a slower overall pace. Would you still tune in every week? Would you still be excited by the Top Ten Plays or a highlight reel?
No, probably not.
Injuries are collateral damage, really. They won’t be going anywhere as long as football continues to play big, fast and strong. And I have a feeling, even with all the new rules and regulations … that is the one thing that will never change.