October 26, 2021

NFL Crackdown On Violent Hits Produces A Milder Football Weekend

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In the weekend's first games since the NFL's crackdown on hits to the head and neck, not a lot changed in game play

Since last week’s crackdown by the National Football League on hits to the neck and head, which have already been banned for some time, many have speculated about the real world impact on the game. This weekend’s games, the first since last week’s announcement, were a bit gentler than previous games.

Over the course of the Sunday games, no penalties were called for banned hits to the head or neck. In a few cases, with several players arguably under more scrutiny than others in the NFL, playing style was altered a bit to conform to the new kinder, gentler game play.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker, James Harrison, was one of the closely watched players who pulled up on at least one play rather than busting into Ronnie Brown during the Steelers vs. Dolphins game on Sunday. Harrison was slapped with a $75,000 fine recently for a collision to the head of a Cleveland Browns receiver. He maintains the hit was unavoidable, but that didn’t change his fine. Harrison knows he will likely be suspended next time he makes a hit like that after being labeled a repeat offender by the NFL.

The NFL is in a tough spot with players protecting their turf, owners and coaches working to capitalize on their players’ abilities and the commissioner responsible for the league’s reputation and concerned about players’ health. A crackdown such as this will inevitably change game play to some degree.

Many speculated that one outcome would be more big pass plays that would develop. On Sunday, at least, no such examples were obvious.

Inevitably, the pro athletes, being at the level they are, will develop and adapt. The elite players such as Harrison have such finely tuned control over their movements that they can adjust and still produce the same results.