Play ball: Dear NFL, let the player play, please

09/30/14 by Matthew S. Vandriak

I'm a fan of professional football. I like to watch the sport. When I turn on an NFL game, I want to see the players on the field decide the game. I do not tune in to see penalty flags thrown on what seems like every other play anymore. I understand the NFL wants to prevent injuries and promote sportsmanship...but enough is enough. It's time for the NFL to let football be football again.
I'm in favor of protecting players. I don't want to see anyone get hurt. And with concussion research showing the effects that a career of taking blows to the head has on a player, I have no problem with the NFL stepping up their efforts to prevent players from suffering after their career is over. But football is a full speed, full contact sport. Collisions happen at high speed. It's part of the game, and no matter how safe the NFL tries to make it, football is a violent sport. Taking the direct blows to a players head out of the game is a good thing. Making players pass concussion tests before returning to the game is a good thing. But the lines have been blurred between a good, clean, hard hit, and hitting a "defenseless" receiver. And the biggest part of the problem is a common theme in all facets of the NFL these days...consistency.
To me, it seems like the NFL has used the players safety card to pretty much take defense out of the game. The NFL has allowed offenses to rule the game by penalizing defenses for what they're supposed to do. There is no penalty for a running back lowering his head into a defender, but every time there is a big hit, you're waiting for flags to fly right after because the offensive player may be considered to be "defenseless".

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Like I said, I don't want to see a guy lead with his helmet and go head to head with another guy trying to catch a pass. That's on the players. Basic fundamental football teaches you how to tackle...and leading with your head isn't the way tackling is taught. And when a defensive player is running at a high rate of speed towards a receiver trying to catch a pass or a back running with the ball, what is he supposed to do?
Stop and think; "maybe I shouldn't hit this guy"? Football is a reactionary sport, and these guys are reacting in a split second. If they hesitate, that receiver or running back is already past them. Hard contact is going to happen because, well, it is football after all.
But it's gone beyond that now. There is a flag on almost every play it seems. Defensive backs are flagged for just touching a receiver now. I like seeing points scored as much as anyone else, but I also like to see some defense played as well. Guys have to think about how to actually tackle someone because it may be head contact, or a horse collar, or hitting a defenseless player, or unnecessary roughness because a linebacker tackled the quarterback too hard when he sacked him. This is professional football! I watch it because I want to see guys get tackled hard. I want to see full speed collisions. I want to see an opposing QB get hit. It's part of the game and a big hit is just as exciting as a touchdown is.
It also seems players are flagged for even the most remote form of celebration after a touchdown or big play. Football is an emotional game. If a guy wants to spike the ball after a TD or dance a little, let him. Professional sports is all about entertainment, so what's wrong with a guy coming up with a touchdown celebration that's entertaining? Sticking the ball in a players face, or spiking it right in front of a guy, or taunting the opposing bench is going too far and should be considered unsportsmanlike conduct.
But doing the worm in the end zone? C'mon now; this is going overboard NFL!
The part of this that gets me the most though is if you watch NFL highlights, what do you see? Big hits and guys celebrating. So if this stuff is frowned upon on the field...why is it being shown as highlights to promote football? That's the inconsistency that I hate about the NFL. And it happens on the field too. How many times is a "illegal hit" called on one play but not on the next when its the exact same thing? There are times when even the players don't know what's being called. If a penalty is a penalty, it should be called the same way EVERY time.
It's time for the NFL to stop trying to control the game and let football be played the way its meant to be played. Put the flags away and let us football fans enjoy the game for what is is....a good old fashioned, hard hitting sport decided by the players playing the game.

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