The NFL is stepping up its war against the Steelers defense, er um, hard hits, by further clarifying and clamping down on helmet-to-helmet hits, expanding the definition of defenseless players, and expanding the players covered under defenseless concept.
Harrison Reacts Harshly
Steelers stand out outside linebacker James Harrison wasted no time and minced on words, offering on Twitter:
I’m absolutely sure now after this last rule change that the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots.
Harrison’s frustration is more than understandable.
For the past several years the a good portion of the NFL’s officials have implicitly (or explicitly) turned a blind eye as offensive lineman have routinely held, horse collared, and often wrestled James Harrison to the ground with nary a flag thrown.
In 2010, James Harrison found himself as the focal point of the leagues new “no hard hits policy” as he was routinely fined and penalized for hits on quarterbacks.
Harrison’s fines also equaled or exceeded those levied on players who commited far worse offenses, such as attempting to cold cock Ben Roethlisberger with a sucker punch in between plays.
While Steel Curtain Rising obviously supports James Harrison, I also recognize the need to protect against head trauma.
The NFL is indeed wise to take this issue very seriously, lest the sport’s popularity plummet the way boxing’s has since the late 1970’s.
But where’s the balance?
Ever since the imposition of the Mel Blount rule the NFL has done more and more to promote the passing game.
Defensive coordinators have reacted by ratcheting up the pressure in the backfield, and hitting hard in the secondary.
Rules changes like these would be easier to support if the league were to say, modify the pass interference rules. No one is talking about repealing the Mel Blount rule, but too often defenders get flagged for even the most minor occasions of incidental contact.
This was not always the case, and if the NFL is going make even difficult for defenders to use force to limit the offense’s ability to move the ball, why not also make corresponding rules changes that enhance the defense’s ability to stop offense using technique?
Litna Offers to Mediate
Joe Litna, a Pittsburgh native and long time NFL agent, made an interesting offer, as reported by Ed Bouchette in PG Plus.
In essence, Litna, who by representing 45-50 NFL players, is asking to see a copy of the latest offer from the NFL owners so that he can present it to his players.
He further clarified that he thinks there’s a good chance his players would be ready to accept it.
Finally, Litna offered to help mediate the dispute.
The idea of accepting mediation from an agent might seem like allowing the fox to guard the chickens, given that agent-driven bonus increases are a big part of the problem.
But Litna has always seemed reasonable. After re-negotiating Jim Miller’s contract prior to the start of the 1996 season, Litna reportedly told his client, “You don’t deserve a contract like this. Now go out and earn it.”
If nothing else, Litna’s comments perhaps provide a clue that the NFL rank and file are getting frustrated with the stalemate that the lockout is locked in (pun intended.)
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