“My head was my weapon of choice” said former Seattle Seahawk Dave Wyman in a guest commentary for the Seattle Times. He wasn’t talking about using his brain to outsmart opponents, however. As an NFL player, Wyman’s head, and the helmet encasing it, was used as a weapon meant to batter and bruise the opponent lining up across from him, routinely slamming helmet-first into ball-carriers and linemen.
With the recent NFL crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits drawing national attention, players are having to change their habits and aiming points on the field. Hitting an opponent in the helmet, whether accidental or intentional, now draws a swift reponse — and a suspension for first-time offenders. Will it work? Wyman doesn’t think so and wonders how the new rules will be enforced.
These new edicts are even worse because they could be called on every play. There is far too much gray area involved. The fact is, helmet-to-helmet contact occurs on every play. It’s subjective, based solely on the referees’ opinion. The real sticking point comes down to intent vs. accident.
He’s right. Helmet-to-helmet hits happen on every play in one form or another. While the devastating blows — the NFL’s words, not mine — draw all the attention, there are much smaller — perhaps much worse when factoring in the cumulative effect — hits happening every time the ball is snapped.
Will fines and suspensions deter players from targeting the helmet of a ball-carrier? It remains to be seen and, through one week of enforcement, we haven’t yet had a case of a hit to warrant such a punishment. Concussions are a serious business and I’m all for attempts to limit the chances of a major brain injury, but with high-speed collisions happening all the time during the course of a game, Wyman argues punishing players for what amounts to accidental blows to the head is too subjective.
If nothing else, the backlash in response to the NFL’s emphasis on blows to the head, both for and against the heavier punishments, has brought more attention to concussions and just how severe they can be.