Time for the NFL to Follow NCAA’s Lead When it Comes to Helmet-to-Helmet Hits
After last night's terrible hit on Devante Adams, it's time for the NFL to follow the NCAA's lead and eject players immediately for helmet-to-helmet hits.
****Written by ESPN 99.1 Intern Max Boyum. Follow him @MaxBoyum on Twitter****
If you watched the Bears-Packers game last night you would more than likely say that nothing out of the ordinary happened. Aaron Rodgers ended his night with an efficient 4TD and a cool QBR of 128 leading his team to victory and pushing the overall series with the Bears to 95-94-6, advantage Packers. The real story of the night came on a normal slant route ran by one of Rodgers’ favorite targets, Davante Adams. The initial contact was what viewers would consider a vanilla wrap-up but the way the play ended has renewed the conversation surrounding NFL players’ safety and head trauma. Bears linebacker, Danny Trevathan, threw himself into the play headfirst and delivered one of the most vicious hits of recent memory.
SOAPBOX TIME: Do I think Trevathan did it on purpose? Absolutely not. Do I think the NFL should look to follow the footsteps of the NCAA and implement an immediate ejection rule for what the NFL calls “helmet-to-helmet contact”? Absolutely.
We have been using the NCAA as the NFL’s guinea pig for what the NCAA calls “targeting” for four seasons. Since its inception, the NCAA has seen an increase in overall ejections, but also a concerted effort by players to engage ball-carriers and receivers in a more careful fashion.
According to the National officiating coordinator, Rogers Redding, “We can still see clear player behavior [changes].” He goes on to say, "Plays that five years ago we'd be scared to death the guy would be killed, now we see players holding up, getting their head out of the way, wrapping up, doing less of a launch. Even though the [targeting] numbers are up, it's been a positive player behavior impact on the game itself."
With the new CBA negotiations looming after the 2020 season, it seems that player safety will be an inevitable topic of conversation given the research done by Boston University study that could lead to diagnosing CTE in living players and the recent push for player development and safety. To me, following the NCAA seems like an easy win for the NFL. Hanging relatively small fines (roughly $25k) over the heads of millionaire players can only go so far. The most effective strategy that we are seeing used in college ball is ejecting players for the rest of the game if it happens in the first half. If the act happens in the second half, the player would not only be ejected for the remainder of that game, he would also be disqualified for the first half of the following game.
If nothing else, there should be a more structured review process for in-game rulings. The NFL competition committee announced during the most recent offseason that certain illegal hits would be subject to immediate ejection. The officiating crew of last night’s game missed a crucial opportunity to set a precedent for future hits. If the NFL is serious about its commitment to player safety, it needs to step up and implement something that actually works for the sake of the players that are earning them millions of dollars.