Week 5 was filled with some great football. Unfortunately, the week is going to be marred in the memory of NFL fans for egregious roughing-the-passer calls, the first on Grady Jarrett in the final minutes of the Falcons and Buccs game, which sealed Atlanta’s fate. The second was on Chris Jones in the Chiefs and Raiders game on Monday night. The call overturned a turnover leaving fans to boo the refs for a long while.
Fans have been left confused as to why we are getting so many bad calls in such a short amount of time, with some asking to review how the penalty system around the rule works. However, I believe the answer lies in the events of Week 4’s Dolphins vs Bengals game. The NFL is on the verge of a PR crisis. In primetime, with all NFL fans watching one game, fans were forced to watch Tua Tagovailoa hit his head so hard that his hands suddenly stiffened in one of the scariest football injuries in recent memory. The injury forced an immediate change to the concussion protocols.
These new concussion protocols are much more protective and will take precautions over player wishes which, in my opinion, is a good thing. However, it wouldn’t surprise me, nor should it surprise anyone, if we later discovered that the NFL refs are being told to enforce roughing the passer to an insane level as having another star QB go through a similar injury would be detrimental to the sport’s image on an international level.
Football is Violent
The average fan is going to become suddenly more aware of how much more often players are getting concussions than they may have recently thought, as players are notorious for playing through head injuries, something that the new protocols are hoping to reduce.
I was raised by two die-hard Broncos fans. I grew up watching highlights of the great Hall of Famer Steve Atwater, who not only laid a devastating hit on Christian Okoye but also made a hit in Super Bowl 32, knocking himself and two other players out. Violence is an inherent part of the game that used to be worshiped and the main draw to football. Though in recency, advertising has been moving away from highlighting the hard hits rather than choosing to emphasize athletic catches and scoring plays.
NFL is a violent sport. It’s part of the beauty of the NFL sport to many fans. It’s ok to embrace that as long as we don’t hide the parts of that which we don’t like. Yes, it’s not fun and sometimes uncomfortable to talk about the realities of some of these injuries, but there is no way for the sport to become safer for future generations of pros and student-athletes alike without talking about the ugly sides of the sport trying to find more advancements to gear to make the game safer.
Personally, I’m glad the NFL is moving the Pro Bowl to a flag football game to further legitimize flag football as a form of the game that is a safer alternative for younger ages. I don’t pretend to hold all of the answers, but I do think it’s time that we all start talking about steps to make the game we all love safer. Every player from peewee to pro deserves that at the very least.