By Matt Magill
For all the talk of “player safety” in the new NFL, the commissioner has done very little to limit the actions on the field between opposing players that many of us watching the game might deem “dirty”. Last year, in what seemed like a game-long brawl between Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr., a few flags were thrown, but anyone with eyes was able to see that those two players were out to hurt one another, especially Beckham. For that conduct, Beckham received a one game suspension and Norman was the recipient of a $26,044 fine. No one was ejected from the game, despite a vicious helmet to helmet hit that Beckham laid on Norman that couldn’t have been more intentional if he had verbally told everyone in attendance he was about to do it.
Fast forward to a year later, Thanksgiving, Dallas Texas. Josh Norman, now playing for the Redskins on one side, and Dez Bryant, known hot-head receiver for the Cowboys on the other. The first half was relatively uneventful between the two, but we later found out, thanks to the fact that there are video cameras everywhere, that the first half was all about Norman poking and prodding at Dez, trying to get under his skin by taking cheap shots, and certainly doing a large amount of yapping. This all boiled over in the second half as Dez fought back, verbally and physically. Now, this didn’t reach the level of the Beckham/Norman dustup, but it was heated nonetheless, and definitely something that could have exploded. In the era of player safety, this kind of extracurricular activity on the field should be a major concern for the NFL. The National Football League has changed rules to protect the players, limiting the window to tackle an opponent to what would amount to the strike zone in baseball, practically doing away with the kickoff, and limiting a defender’s ability to make a big hit on a receiver going across the middle of the field, among other things, yet they allow this unnecessary activity continue. They are perfectly fine with taking the physicality out of football unless it comes from a place of bruised egos and whiny bitches on the field? Please.
The NFL needs to fix this, and can do so in a couple different ways. First, they need an overhaul to the officiating in general, and in doing so they should make a point of emphasis regarding this kind of activity. While I think College Football’s targeting rule is used a little too much, to the detriment of the game, I think something similar should be utilized in the NFL. Referees are human though, which brings me to my next point. Utilize all the television cameras at your disposal to police the game, and stop being afraid to suspend players for in-game activity. If you see Josh Norman (or anyone, this is not just a Norman problem, though he is the poster-child for this because of his actions) antagonizing Dez or Odell or anyone for that matter (and I’m talking about cheap shot hits, trying to stomp on the hands of the opponent like he did with Dez on Thanksgiving, etc., basically something physical – “you’re mama’s so fat” jokes are still fair game) whether it is on the field or up in the booth, you have the official give him a warning to cut his shit out. If he keeps it up, he’s tossed. If it is shown after the game that he continued to do it and was just able to sneak it in and get away with it, he is suspended for the next game. Plain and simple.
If you want this activity to cease, you take a hard stance against it.
It worked for pot smoking, right?
Oh yeah…on second thought…