Call him the guinea pig for the “future” of the NFL when it comes to protecting players. Eagles linebacker Ernie Sims was fined for $50,000 yesterday by league officials for his hit on Titans wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins two weeks ago. The officials defined his hit as, “unnecessarily striking a defenseless receiver in the neck and head area with his forearms.”
Today, Sims announced that he will repeal the fine, citing it as “outrageous.” I couldn’t agree more.
I do respect the National Football League for trying to protect players now and in the future, however their attempt to be strict is ruining the game. These players know what they are signing up for. They have played football all of their lives and should understand the risks involved in the daily grind of the sport. Does that mean that players should be able to intend to hurt other players? Absolutely not.
However, aggression and intensity is what drives the sport of football. Athletes are entertainers and their success comes from winning the approval of the public (considering the people fund the sport). By creating these strict rules that will penalize every possible hit, even if it was not the intent of the player, will cause the NFL to become soft. If players like Sims, Ray Lewis, and Clay Matthews cannot be enforcers, then their talent and in turn the teams talent is restricted.
In the article released by ESPN, Sims said, “That’s just the type of player I am — aggressive. I like hitting. It’s fun to me. That’s just the way I play football.”
It is from this mentality that Sims made it to the NFL after playing at Florida State. He has become an enforcer, a man that is feared by opposing offenses. He forces opposing offensive coordinators to game plan around his abilities on the field. Now that he has to focus on how he hits as opposed to the impact of his hits (for the better of his team), Sims’ value will decrease in the long run.
The other big problem I have with the new rules is the disparities between offenses. For example, Sims’s hit on Lavelle Hawkins was considered by the league to be in the same fining category as Dunta Robinson’s hit on DeSean Jackson a couple of weeks ago. That is simply absurd. If someone can justifiably compare the magnitude of those two hits, I would love to hear it. How about Steelers defensive specialist Jerome Harrison? He has been at the forefront of these problems because of his desire to make big plays and even bigger hits. Harrison was fined earlier today for a hit, which brings his 2010 total to $100,000. The ironic thing is that Harrison wasn’t even called for a penalty in the game for two of the hits he was fined for. That just doesn’t make sense.
With the fast pace of the game, it is nearly impossible to players not to naturally react every play and be conscious about how and where they are tackling in the middle of making a play. The only way to potentially protect players is to instill fear in the league. However, I believe the NFL is being unrealistic in its approach and it will affect the future of the game.