After the rash of head shots this past weekend (you know it’s an epidemic because your Aunt Millie talked about it), the NFL instituted stiffer fines and possible suspensions for what they deem illegal hits. And, as you may have guessed, Eagles defenders weren’t exactly wild about the news.
Linebacker Ernie Sims called the new rules "crazy" and was among several defenders who said they don't intend to change their styles of play. He said he can't go out thinking about exactly how to hit a ball carrier.
"I can’t play like that. The moment I play like that, an offensive player is going to take my head off," he said. "I believe every other football player in this league is going to do the same thing."
Indeed they will. I don’t think defenders are upset about the idea of eliminating devastating hits as they are annoyed at the mixed signals coming from the league. Take a look again at what league VP Ray Anderson said of the DeSean Jackson hit this past weekend:
By the rules, even if you initiate contact below the neck, but you get up into a player's head and neck area for a defenseless receiver, technically under that rule, that was a violation.
But how can you help that? You can’t predict which way an offensive player is going to move when you hit him. If you make a conscious effort to tackle below the neck, yet the offensive player slides down so his neck hits your shoulder, how can you prevent that? Defenders aren’t going to change how they play because it doesn’t seem like there’s ANYTHING they can do to prevent freakish plays like that. It would be the same as fining a centerfielder for colliding with his own shortstop in the outfield.
Sims is going to keep on doing what he does, and if he has the misfortune of being flagged for it, so be it. There’s no point in trying to figure out the precise nuances of this stuff when everything is so ambiguously defined. Sims will just keep on hitting and wishing for the best. And really, that’s what the NFL has been doing for decades now.