A return to glory? Some Wolverines fans think so
Fans tailgate and get sneak peak at UM football team
After the three of the toughest years in the long and storied history of the University of Michigan football program, fans were looking forward to seeing the new look Wolverines at the annual spring game.
And they liked what they saw.
“The excitement is back,” said Aaron Amshay, 35, from Waterford, as he and fellow football fan Larry Lesinski, 35, also from Waterford, set up their tailgate.
Yes, there was a different feeling in the air surrounding the Big House.
“I want to see if the defense has a rush,” Kelly Matlow Sr., 60, of Kalamazoo, said before the April 16 game.
Mazlow and his son Kelly Jr., 25, from Benton Harbor, pulled into the Pioneer High School parking lot at 5:30 a.m. to set up their tailgate for the spring game.
“Any chance I get to tailgate, I’ll be here,” Kelly Jr. said as he pinned pineapple to a ham to prep their meal. “You can’t lose when you tailgate.”
While fans were enjoying a rare chance to tailgate in the spring, the main reason for the day was to see what changes had been made to a team that has struggled to be consistent for the last three seasons.
The most popular topic was how the defense would improve after being the worst in school history last season. Fans wanted to see how defensive lineman Will Campbell would react to moving back to the defensive line, and if the Wolverines could limit big plays.
Another popular topic was how duel-threat quarterback Denard Robinson would respond to changing styles on offense. Robinson has been moved from a spread offense into a pro-style offense. Fans wanted to see how his game might change as he adapted to the new offense.
And on the first play, Robinson broke off a 50-yard run, reassuring fans that he can still make plays with his feet.
Coach Brady Hoke has said the team will be tough and hit hard. That message has been met with great reception by his team and by former players.
“He will be a great coach, great recruiter and he makes guys tough,” said former offensive lineman Dave Pearson, who also added that watching the games over the last three years was tough.
After the spring game, fans were optimistic about what they saw.
“The defense looked great,” said Garrett Morse, 28, who drove from Rothford, Ohio.
Morse was part of a tailgate group that was pleased with what they saw from the team they felt would be better than average this season.
“I’m saying 8-4,” said Ryan Riedmaier, 34, from Erie, Ohio, when asked for a prediction.
One thing is for certain: Fans will once again spend their Saturdays this fall following the maize and blue, regardless of the team’s record.
“It’s still tradition, it’s still Michigan football,” said Lesinski. “Besides, it’s Saturday. What else are you gonna do?”
Lions schmions – Counterpoint
Julian H. Gonzalez/MCT courtesy photo
Detroit Lions’ Tony Scheffler catches a pass reception for a first down against Minnesota Vikings’ Husain Abdullah during a game last season.
April is here, and that means the Detroit Lions are set to make their annual pick at the top of the NFL draft. Once again, Lions fans are forced to talk about how great the Lions could be next season. I’m here to tell those fans that once again, they will be spending the season at the bottom of the standings — thanks to a boatload of issues.
The biggest issue at hand is that the Lions still don’t know what quarterback Matthew Stafford is. He has played in only 13 games in the two seasons since he was drafted as the number one overall pick in 2009. He can’t stay healthy, and even though it’s a small sample, he has more career interceptions thrown than touchdowns. For a guy guaranteed $41 million, he hasn’t started to earn it yet.
The Lions are a young team that could continue to get better, but the impending lockout is going to severely hurt the team’s ability to improve. Players like Stafford, Louis Delmas, Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best need to spend this offseason with their coaches and going to practice. But because of the strike, players and coaches are not allowed to even contact each other. Not only does this hurt the players on the team now, but it hurts the players that will be drafted this week.
The defense is still not up to par and will not be for another season at least. While there were signs of improvement last season, it was basically only on the defensive line. The linebackers and secondary are below average at best and need a lot of help to get better. Both of those positions should get address during the draft, but it won’t be enough.
Even if the team gets some help via the draft, it usually takes players a couple seasons before they get up to speed with the NFL game.
With two playoff teams in their division in the Chicago Bears and the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, the Lions have their work cut out for them if they want to reach the playoffs. And with so many factor working against them, it’s going to be a couple years before the Lions are able to compete with the big boys.
The biggest factor working against them is? They are the Lions! What has this team ever done to give fans any reason to suspect this year will be any different? More than 40 years have passed since this franchise has seen any true success, and fans are to believe that they are about to turn the corner?
So get ready Lions fans. If we’re lucky enough to actually see pro football in 2011, be prepared to spend it looking towards the 2012 season.
EMU hires former Syracuse assistant
Rob Murphy, an assistant coach at Syracuse University for the last seven seasons, has been hired to lead the Eastern Michigan Eagles men’s basketball team for at least the next five years.
The decision was announced last Thursday by EMU Director of Athletics Derrick Gragg.
“We are excited about having Rob Murphy leading our men’s basketball program into the future,” said Gragg.
Murphy will be paid $210,000 annually with extra incentives for post-season opportunities, victories, high level performances in the Mid-American Conference and for filling the seats at EMU’s Convocation Center.
Prior to his stint with Syracuse, the 38-year-old Murphy spent his time coaching in the Detroit Public School League, leading Detroit Crockett Technical High School to a Class B State Championship in 2000-01.
“Coach Murphy has been on the staff of two outstanding college basketball programs and was also a highly successful high school head coach in Detroit, leading Crockett to the Class B State Championship in 2000-01 and was the associate head coach on the staff of the Detroit Central High School team that won the Class A state title in 1997-98,” said Gragg. “We feel that his experience with outstanding teams has prepared him for this opportunity.”
After leaving the high school ranks, Murphy found an assistant coaching position at Kent State University, where the Golden Flashes won back-to-back Mid-American Conference East Division crowns, posting 22-9 records both seasons, starting in 2002.
After leaving Kent State, Murphy joined up with coach Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse University Orange as an assistant. In his seven years on staff, the Orange recorded a 180-67 record and played in the post season every year in his tenure.
Murphy competed with the likes of former Butler coach Todd Lickliter and former Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne coach Dane Fife, who ended up taking a job to become an assistant coach at Michigan State University.
Lions schmions – Point
Julian H. Gonzalez/MCT courtesy photo
Detroit Lions’ Tony Scheffler catches a pass reception for a first down against Minnesota Vikings’ Husain Abdullah during a game last season.
The Lions will be a playoff contender in the next football season (whenever that may be), and there’s no doubt about it.
Most of the pieces are in place for the Lions to make a run, and it appears that they’ve finally climbed over the hill and may be ready to take the throne atop the NFC North.
While the division looks to be a tough one on paper, don’t expect the Chicago Bears to be able to repeat the successes of the 2010 season; it was a fluke. The biggest obstacle will be overtaking the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, which won’t happen, but an NFC wildcard spot is definitely in reach for the Lions.
The front office has done a tremendous job in building this Lions team the right way — through the NFL draft, and not through free agency. Free agency is generally a way to patch up small holes in a lineup, but not for building toward the future.
In the last three years, the Lions have drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, safety Louis Delmas, linebacker DeAndre Levy, running back Jahvid Best, cornerback/safety Amari Spievey and of course, NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Ndamukong Suh.
Each of these players has made an enormous impact in their young careers, and will only improve.
Injuries plagued the Lions in 2010 and that is the only thing that can stop this team in 2011 — or whenever the league resumes play after labor issues. In the last four games of 2010, the Lions really got it together and wheeled off four straight victories, showing fans what they’re capable of.
I will admit, however, that the Lions have a few holes, particularly at offensive line and in the defensive secondary. But the Lions are drafting at No. 13 and, with the right choice, should be able to add a future superstar on at least one side of the line of scrimmage.
Recent mock drafts have the Lions drafting cornerback Prince Amukamara from Nebraska. Amukamara is a big cornerback who would come in right away, and make an impact on the Lions defensive unit.
Regardless of who the Lions draft, they will be a contender. They have a good balance of running and passing the ball and have one of the better wide receiver tandems in the NFL, with pro bowler Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson manning the duties.
The defense will play above-average football and the Lions will sneak out a few victories against teams they are not expected to beat, as well as the teams that they will be favored against.
It’s time for the rest of the NFL to finally take the Lions seriously, or risk getting bitten.
Lions need plenty of help via NFL draft
With so many needs at a variety of positions, the Detroit Lions will look to this week’s NFL draft for a lot of help. While the last two seasons have yielded some helpful talent, it’s imperative that the Lions make the right picks this year. They have the 13th overall pick.
Here is a look at potential draft picks for the Lions during this week’s draft:
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The secondary is an obvious concern, and Amukamara would be an automatic upgrade at cornerback. At 6 feet tall and 206 pounds, Amukamara is a physical corner who can play both man and zone defense. Concerns about giving up the big play may worry some in the war room.
Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
Costanzo is big at 6-foot-7, 311 pounds. But scouts are worried about his ability to contain speedy defensive ends and how he uses leverage. He can also double as a guard and would be valuable as a backup while he adjusts to the NFL game.
Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers may not be the best value at the number 13 pick, but the Lions need an outside linebacker, and depth at the position in this draft is limited. Ayers can hold his own in pass coverage and has the speed to rush the quarterback. If other options are drafted earlier than expected, Ayers may be a Detroit Lion.
Also keep an eye out for a possible defensive end being drafted. Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue) Aldon Smith (Missouri)and Da’Quan Bowers (Clemson) stand out as possible choices.
Brandon Harris, CB, Florida
Although he is undersized at 5 feet 10 inches, Harris has the athleticism to have an impact. A solid tackler, Harris is better at playing man coverage than zone and is not afraid to help support run defense.
Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU
At 6 feet 7 inches, 350 pounds, Cannon is massive in size, but is surprisingly athletic. Cannon would be a force in the run game, and if he can improve his footwork a bit, he can be solid in pass protection.
Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio State
Capable of playing both man and zone coverage, Chekwa has amazing speed. His aggressiveness hurts him at times, as he can give up the big play. Chekwa is a nice option if the Lions are unable to land a cornerback higher up on their draft board.
Rest of the draft
The Lions are going to need to get some help and depth in the linebacker core and the secondary. The NFL draft is always an exercise in insanity to try and predict, and this year is no different. Look for the Lions to take a look at OLB’s like Sam Acho, Ross Homan and Chris Carter in the third round.
Depending on who they select in the first two rounds, a defensive end could be a third-round pick; the Lions want to continue to add talent to the lineup on the line.
At some point after the third round, don’t be surprised if a running back is selected to compliment Jahvid Best. He had injury problems in college and last season in the NFL. The Lions want to lessen his workload, and it doesn’t hurt to have another set of young legs in the backfield.
Expect multiple picks in the secondary and at linebacker to add depth to the roster in those weak positions.
Spartans, you’re fortunate. Don’t get greedy
Congratulations to the 2010 Michigan State Spartans football team. You managed to win a share of the Big Ten Championship as a mediocre team. It’s fun to pretend isn’t it?
I don’t mean to bash the Spartans. Good for them, winning the Big Ten with an incredibly easy schedule and a huge blowout loss at currently unranked Iowa. But please, please, please Sparty fans, don’t act like you deserve to have been invited to a BCS bowl.
The entire year you beat one ranked team, and that was at home. That was also before Wisconsin hit its stride. Outside of the Wisconsin game, you didn’t even play another team that finished in the top 25.
That’s still OK, considering TCU won’t play a team in the top 50, but you didn’t do it convincingly, Michigan State. To make up for lost ground of playing weak opponents, you’re supposed to crush them.
Not beat a 7–5 Notre Dame team, at home, by a fake field goal in overtime. Not beat a 7–5 Northwestern team with a fake punt and two touchdowns in the final two minutes to squeak out a win. Not beat a 4–8 Purdue team by four points because of a blocked punt and fumble recovery in the end zone. Not beat a 7–5 Penn State team by four points. Not beat a 4–7 Florida Atlantic team by only 13.
That’s just weak, Spartans.
Don’t get me wrong. You should enjoy sharing the Big Ten title for the first time in 20 years. It was an exciting season. Every game was on the line, since you’re really not that good. It makes for a good story, but the BCS is for real teams.
It’s for teams that clobber weaker opponents. Teams that don’t get beat by 31 points, to a 7–5 squad.
The BCS is for teams like Stanford, whose only loss came at Oregon. Wisconsin, who beat Ohio State, and beat six of its opponents by 20 or more points. Even Ohio State, whose only loss came at Camp Randal, at night, and beat five Big Ten teams by more than 20.
Let’s break it down, Sparty. If you want to make a BCS bowl next year, follow these guidelines:
Don’t lose by 30 points to anyone, anywhere.
Don’t beat half of your scheduled opponents by a fake field goal, punt, or any other fluke. Try beating a ranked team on the road.
Schedule a non-conference team that will end the season ranked.
When scheduling non-conference games, only put one team on it that has a direction linked to the name (MSU played Northern Colorado and Western Michigan this year).
Michigan State fans should be glad MSU isn’t going to the BCS. A real team would just roll over them, unless they got the lucky bid to play the Big East winner.
Not convinced? Wait and watch on New Year’s Day, when Michigan State gets blown out by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.
MICHIGAN FOOTBALL MAKES IT LOOK EASY
ROBERT CONRADI THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Carolyn Chemello stands along State Street announcing $25 parking spots on a rainy Saturday morning before a UM home football game.
For its fans, the University of Michigan football is a religion. For others, it’s a social event. For many more, it’s survival.
Even if the Wolverines lose, Ann Arbor always wins during the season that brings almost 200,000 people to the city every game, and economic gains for many.
“Michigan Football puts Ann Arbor on the map,” said Kevin Nelson, 44, of Ann Arbor, an alumnus of the 1988 class of the College of Engineering at UM.
The game touches not only the city, but all its inhabitants. Its machinery, with a large and deep, gear not only moves the current city, but also builds its future, bringing revenue to hotels, restaurants, bars and stores. It creates countless temporary jobs.
And the numbers speak for themselves.
Last season, the Big House’s attendance reached more than 763,000 people.
DREW BRODIE THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Human-powered taxis, reminiscent of rickshaws, transport fans on game day.
According to a study done by Michigan State University, each home football game brings an estimated $10 million into the local economy, said Marianne Gosz Klinker, communications director at the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The games also bring revenue to the clothing industry that sells jerseys, T-shirts, souvenirs and memorabilia at the stadium store and other stores that belong to the university.
Workers like Rod Powers, 55, of Chelsea, get opportunities to make overtime pay. A 30-year employee at UM, Powers is one of four truck drivers who collect the garbage after the games on Sunday mornings, starting at 6 a.m.
Powers said that volunteers from Father Gabriel Richards High School collect and sort recyclable waste from the stands. The UM athletic department intern pays for their sports programs like cheerleading and volleyball.
In 2009, for games against Western Michigan University, Notre-Dame and Eastern Michigan University, there was a total of 66.12 tons of garbage; 14.36 tons were recycled.
ROBERT CONRADI THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Partying fans enjoy some pregame revelry on Saturday, Sept. 18.
This season, from games against Connecticut, Massachusetts and Bowling Green, there was 57.67 tons, including 14.28 tons of recycled waste, according to Ablauf.
Since he was 7 years old, Melvin Henry, 51, of Ann Arbor, has parked cars on his Sheehan Avenue house on game days. His family used to charge $2; he now charges $20. Last season, he made between $1,500 and $1,800, averaging $250–$350 per game.
And for Henry, when it rains, it pours. Michigan won’t allow parking on its golf course when it rains, to protect the turf. That means Henry has more business.
In 2009, the golf course sold spaces for 9,326 cars; 1,165 per game. It brought $279,780 for the season, an average of $34,972 per game, said Ablauf.
Chris Veta Varlamos, 46, an engineer from Novi and a UM alumnus, has been renting car spaces on his State Street home for the past three years.
“We are saving for our kids’ college funds. They come to help,” he said. He makes about $350 per game.
Fans know it is better to pay for parking instead of being towed and paying at least $230.
In 2009, 249 vehicles were towed during the eight home games of the football season — an average of 31 per game.
After only five home games this year, 172 cars have been towed, said Renee Bush, spokeswoman from the Ann Arbor Police Department.
Although game tickets are not cheap, the spirit of some people moves those who cannot afford to get into the games.
Clayton Willis, 51, of Detroit, has no legs but he hasn’t missed a UM game since 2007. Seated on his wheelchair, he holds a plastic cup, waiting for charity, and then goes to the game.
Some ask for free tickets and some get them. Others scalp tickets near the entrances. Even the hustlers make good money.
On a good game day, they can start their buying and selling with two tickets and make $2,000 per month scalping, said Henry.
If you know the system, you can get around and scalp a ticket or get a free ticket, but a lot of people don’t know how to do it, and they have to buy a ticket for $60. They then have to pay for parking, drinks and food, explained Eric Birkle, 46, of Ann Arbor.
But the alumni don’t care about prices. They always come back to the games, bringing their families to continue the legacy.
Deb Nelson, 51, from Scottville, has been to every game since 1988 when her daughter was a freshman. They drive 3 1/2 hours. She and her family usually arrive on Friday night and stay at a hotel in Whitmore Lake, Jackson or Ann Arbor, arriving at the Yost Arena parking lot by 9:30 a.m.
They spend $200 on food, $100 on a hotel, $60 in gas and have four season tickets that cost $1,000 each season.
“I love Michigan football,” Nelson said. “All the tradition is exciting. I love all college football.”
Marilyn Lowery, 77, from Wayne, was 5 years old when her grandparents first brought her to a UM game. She now owns four season tickets. She has come to the home games since 1954.
“We love Michigan football. It’s exciting. Prices and teams are not as good as they used to be, but it is fun getting together with friends and family. Sometimes, we (have) 20 people, sometimes just six,” she said.
They spend about $500 on each game.
DREW BRODIE THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Ticket sellers may be found in abundance outside UM Stadium on game days.
Fans come from different states like Illinois, Ohio, Indiana. They endure the changing weather and the early start, just for the love of UM football.
A 70-year-old woman from Taylor gets in line at the golf course at 6:30 a.m. to be at her favorite spot. She brings together between 75 and 200 family and friends from Farmington and Novi. Her grandkids study at UM, and her group has come to every home game since 1979.
She started tailgating at the golf course with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Now, she has an elegant space and tables filled with food like doughnuts, apple cider, hamburgers, hot dogs, different kinds of salads, meat and foods to grill after the game.
She also brings a satellite dish to watch the game on a flat screen TV, and another TV for her grandkids to watch DVDs.
“It’s great. It’s the spirit! They put blue blood in their veins,” she said. “Football means everything to Ann Arbor. Financially for college, for business they make good. But I don’t like the drinking… These girls so young with too much drinking.”
You don’t have to love football to enjoy the season, and even make some money.
“I don’t care about football, I care about the cans,” said a 35-year-old homeless man from Ann Arbor, who holds a plastic bag with more than 100 cans worth.
Another 49-year-old man from Ann Arbor enjoys every home game. He has picked bottles for the past five years.
“Football is great! Fantastic! We are having a good year. Denard Robinson is tearing them apart!” he said.
But the math these people do has nothing to do with win-loss records and national rankings.
“If everybody drinks one pop or one beer, the stadium holds almost 110,000 people, that mean $10,000 in cans,” said another Ann Arbor homeless man. He has been homeless for the last five years, depending on bottles and cans from home games. He doesn’t do it very often anymore, but he used to make $100 every game.
“I’m not greedy,” he said.
But not only the homeless pick cans and bottles.
Mike Varney, 24, Lody Bowman, 19, Cecily Cammarata, 20 and Josh Barabe, 18, started picking cans at 7:40 a.m. They are from the EMU Aviation Fraternity and were collecting cans to raise money to fly to Florida in January in hopes of obtaining enough hours to achieve their pilots’ licenses.
“Crimes happen during game days, but they don’t take over the community,” said Ann Arbor Chief of Police Barnett Jones, who added that most common crimes are larcenies from vehicles, stolen vehicles, fights and aggravated assaults due to intoxication.
During the last football season, 48 people were arrested; 34 of them were minors possessing alcohol. There were also 69 citations; 54 of those arrested had alcohol in the stadium. And 221 more individuals were ejected from games for different reasons. Of the 61 ejections, 51 were due to disorderly conduct.
This year, during the first three games, there were 15 arrests, 23 citations and 68 ejections, said Diane Brown, spokeswoman for UM.
Jones said they have to take care of the security of about 220,000–250,000 people every game — not all 115,000 attendants go to the game. Another 114,000 are in the stands, and another 30,000–50,000 who tailgate never even go into the stadium.
Jones’ department works together with Michigan State Police, University of Michigan Department of Public Safety, Pittsfield Township and the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department.
Perhaps the only ugly thing that can be seen during UM football is the disparity between the rich and the poor.
“The average working person cannot afford to get into these games,” said Henry. “Or they come but because somebody gave them the ticket. It’s for upper-class people; lower-class doesn’t come to these games.”
Lowered expectations: Get ‘RichRod’ out
Coach Rich Rodriguez and quarterback Denard Robinson both exploded onto the field, ecstatic. Robinson threw his hands in the air jumping in jubilation while Rodriguez, overjoyed, looked for assistant coaches to hug.
Michigan had just beat Illinois in triple overtime, 67-65. The celebration was on in the Big House. A feeling spread throughout the team, a feeling of immense accomplishment. For the first time in three-years the Wolverines will head to a bowl game.
“We’re bowl eligible, and that’s all that matters,” quarterback Tate Forcier said after the game. “We’re winners.”
Really? When did bowl eligibility become the goal of Michigan football? Bowl eligible? Winners? Really?
Before the Nov. 6 game against Illinois that kind of celebration was limited to beating Ohio State and earning a berth to the Rose Bowl.
Robinson didn’t have a Rose in his mouth, though. He might have wanted to get a Hot-N-Ready from Little Caesars for the Pizza Pizza Bowl at Ford Field.
This is what defines success at Michigan these days?
When RichRod struggled in his first season, all the supporters said “wait ’til he has his system in. Wait ’til the third year.” We heard it over and over again.
Well, it’s the third year, and his gimmicky offensive system has worked tremendously. But he’s a head coach, not an offensive coordinator. And overall, his team isn’t winning.
New athletic director Dave Brandon has his opportunity to make his mark on the program and fire Rich Rodriguez. It needs to be done, even after a hard-fought win over Purdue to give the Wolverines seven wins this season.
Rodriguez has had his three seasons to prove if he can coach, and has a handful of Big Ten wins and, now, one bowl appearance.
RichRod was hired to take Michigan to the next level, to compete for a national championship.
Instead, he has put the Wolverines back five years, at least.
Instead of celebrating wins over rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, Michigan celebrates beating Big Ten weaklings Indiana, Illinois and Purdue.
Instead of making them title contenders, and raising expectations, Rodriguez lowered Michigan’s expectations to the extent that players are calling themselves winners for making a bowl game.
That’s not Michigan football.
Time is up for Rich Rodriguez.
NFL – flag football now?
Imagine being the best employee at your job. You do your job so well, in fact, that you actually face a stifling fine when you execute to perfection.
That’s exactly what’s happening in the National Football League.
The NFL will now fine defensive players who engage in violent hits or helmet-to-helmet contact with opposing offensive players.
But whose fault is it, really? If a speedy wide receiver is streaking across the middle of the field at full speed, and a 220-pound safety is running towards him, trying to intercept the opposing team’s quarterback, the collision is going to look violent. But the defensive player was making a play on the ball, as was the wide receiver.
Intent isn’t something we can see. How do we know the defensive player was trying to “violently” tackle the offensive player?
The NFL claims that it is looking out for the safety of players. Teams have invested millions of dollars into individual players, and it’s only right they get a good return on their investment.
However, if protecting players really is the motivation behind the rule change, why is the same league trying to increase the amount of games from 16 to 18? NFL players are essentially battering rams through the course of a full season, and increasing the amount of games they play isn’t protecting them.
But it does produce more revenue for the league. And so does adding a fine for players who hit violently.
I don’t blame the NFL. It’s a business, and like most businesses it’s all about money. But continually adding rules that handicap defensive players is becoming ridiculous.
The offense, especially the quarterback, already has a serious advantage. Defenders are constantly flagged on controversial calls when barely touching the quarterback or hitting a runner that may or may not be going out of bounds.
The NFL implemented a rule last season that some call the “Tom Brady Rule,” which doesn’t allow defenders to hit quarterbacks below the knees if their route to the quarterback is unimpeded.
Note to Ndamukong Suh: make sure you don’t chase the opposing teams’ quarterbacks, they might tear a ligament. While you’re at it, can you just let quarterbacks scramble for 10 yards before giving all 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pounds of them a nice diaper change and warm bottle?
The NFL knows most of its money comes from offensive players, especially when it comes to jersey sales. But it’s time to stop adding rules that handicap defensive players.
Soon enough, these players are going to go on strike. And who can blame them?
When a game is deadly
BENJAMIN MICHAEL SOLIS
So the National Football League has changed the rules regarding massive hits by defensive players in order to promote the overall safety of all NFL athletes.
The league now says that no hit should be directed toward the head or neck unless the player is defending himself before the hit is made.
Once aimed at protecting quarterbacks and wide receivers, the rule now applies to all players in every position. A penalty will cost the offending player’s team 15 years and, potentially, major fines (the highest fine given was to Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison at a whopping $75,000). The penalty could also include a suspension.
This ruling is long overdue. Hits involving “launching” (when a player leaves the ground and projects himself headfirst into another player) are extremely dangerous – for both the missile and the target.
Tackling fast and efficiently is the name of the game for defensive players like Harrison and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson. It is, indeed, a defensive player’s job to stop those playmakers from gaining yardage. Yet, it is not a defensive player’s job to intentionally injure a player as a means of stopping him from gaining yards.
The plays made by Harrison and Robinson were clear examples of launching. These plays not only injured the Cleveland Browns’ wide receivers Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi, but Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver DeSean Jackson as well. Robinson also suffered a concussion after making the play.
I never played football; I’m a hockey man myself, but I do know plenty of guys who played on one of our high school teams, the Salem Rocks. One of these players explained to me the mentality of making big hits.
“When you have all that padding on and a helmet, you feel invincible,” he said. “Sometimes you just want to hit hard for the sake of hitting hard, because you know you won’t get hurt. But the thing is it can kill the other guy if you aren’t careful.”
This is the case with Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, who was not hit, but made a hit that cost him the use of all his extremities. LeGrand is now paralyzed from the neck down.
This mentality is almost more alarming than the threat of player’s safety. Harrison was quoted in saying that he did nothing wrong while making these launching attacks. That was how he was taught to play, he said, and he was angry about the fines.
Yeah, so tell that to the guy in a hospital bed wondering if he’ll ever walk again.