By Braden Hammond
Ryan Clark, safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was fined $40,000 Sunday for a helmet-to-helmet contact penalty, a new rule that may be doing more harm than good.
Ed Dickson of the Baltimore Ravens caught the ball across the middle of the field in front of Clark, so Clark did what he has been trained to do: hit the opposing player hard enough to try and stop further progression of the football. Clark had no desire to hurt Dickson, just the intention of making a play that would help his own team. This hit turned into not only a penalty against Clark and the Steelers, but also a $40,000 fine for Clark.
Helmet-to-helmet penalties have been a controversial subject that has led to many disagreements between NFL players and league commissioners in the last couple years. Defensive players are no longer allowed to do what they have been doing for the last 90 years. Instead of possibly being a game-changing play and causing the crowd to go wild, a helmet-to-helmet collision will now result in a penalty.
Players should not be penalized for what they’ve been taught to do for years. A defensive player’s main job is to stop the football from progressing so their team can get the ball back. Players are taught to hit the man with the ball in an attempt to make him fumble; hard-hitting is just a part of the sport. A single play only lasts a few seconds, which means every player is forced to make split-second decisions. A defensive player usually doesn’t have time to aim or decide how he’s going to tackle the person with the ball. This means that it will never be possible to completely eliminate helmet-to-helmet hits.
I understand that collisions to the head can easily cause injuries, especially with players running at high speeds in the NFL. The rules against helmet-to-helmet contact were made with good intentions and the league commissioners are only trying to protect the players, but every player knew the risks of the game when he started playing. They all know that football is a contact sport and that they could be hit hard and injured at any second on the field. If they weren’t okay with these risks, then they wouldn’t be playing.
This new rule is meant only to prevent injuries to players, but could it actually be doing the opposite? What if players decide that since they’re going to be fined anyway, they’ll just try to make the hit as hard as possible and injure the guy? Some players, including Clark, are thinking exactly that. Clark said, “So it’s going to turn into if you’re going to fine me $40,000, I might as well put him to sleep for real or I might as well blow his knee out.”
By Braden Hammond