Can the NFL and owners do more to keep the players safe?
We all know that football is a tough sport. We love watching the game, and a lot of us play a little backyard football when we have the time. Injuries do happen, and sometimes are a common occurrence in games. Most of these injuries are from bad twists of a joint, or an unlucky step, or getting rolled up on by another player. While the NFL tries to make rules to govern play to keep the players as safe as possible, there are those dirty players who go beyond fair play and make dirty and outright illegal hits.
What do you do with a player who seems hell bent on straight up hurting other players? When does the safety of the large group of players outweigh keeping a good performer playing for the sake of money?
Early into week seven’s Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers game, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was on the ground after a play. It wasn’t the fact that Burfict was on the ground, what happened after the play is causing controversy. Burfict brought both his legs up in the air, with his hands under him for leverage and kicked Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix in the head/face. The Bengals and Burfict received no penalty on the play, and the game went on. After the game, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis tried to downplay it, and upon review the dirty linebacker received no suspension.
Was this the right call?
Burfict has been suspended many times for dirty hits in his career. This play can’t be chalked up to just the heat of a rivalry game. Burfict has done this in games no matter who the Bengals are playing. This also occurred when he was playing against the Carolina Panthers earlier this season, he performed a similar act. Burfict twisted quarterback Cam Newton’s ankle after a play ended, looking like a wrestler trying to break it instead of a football player.
What Should be Done?
As we’ve seen, suspending him hasn’t changed his behavior. This is how Burifct feels he should play. What makes it even worse is that his coach isn’t even telling him to stop, he is defending it. The owner of the Bengals hasn’t stopped it either. If the owner wanted it stopped, Burfict would be afraid of losing his job and would stop. There is an obvious difference in what different owners of different teams feel is proper behavior.
What if discussing multiple time offenders happened behind closed doors in a meeting with all owners. Punishments would go beyond suspensions and money. Punishments can go as far as to termination from play. Other owners aren’t going to want to risk their player’s health playing against someone so oblivious to fair play. Extreme? Maybe, but wouldn’t it be extreme to see someone badly hurt by a dirty hit?
Perhaps this is something the NFL and owners need to talk about before something happens and the question then becomes, why didn’t we stop this.