In last Saturday’s preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, Bears defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek delivered a shot to Ryan Fitzpatrick after the quarterback had released the ball. Fittingly, a flag was thrown on the play and replays clearly showed that Dvoracek had taken two extra steps before pummeling Fitzpatrick. Dvoracek revealed that referee Scott Green flagged him not for the late hit but for helmet-to-helmet contact.
Can’t complain with that. It was a good call by the official because the play was against the rules.
Days later, however, it was revealed that Dvoracek was fined $7,500 by the league for that hit on Fitzpatrick, for what they called “unnecessarily striking the quarterback late.” Notice the wording of that ruling. In there, it says nothing about the supposed helmet-to-helmet contact.
I find two problems with this.
First, the NFL and its referees need to be on the same page about what happens during these games. If the official said it was helmet-to-helmet contact but the NFL isn’t fining for that aspect of it, that’s a bit of disparity and injustice. Maybe Dvoracek did both, but if that’s the case, he should be fined for the contact to the head and not the late hit.
Which brings me to my second point. For what reason is the NFL fining Dvoracek? The rulebook states that a player is allowed to take one step after the quarterback releases the ball in order to legally hit him. Dvoracek took two. Are you telling me that one of Dvoracek’s strides is worth $7,500? The difference between a perfectly legal hit and a $7,500 fine is the matter of a few feet?
The NFL front office needs to get over themselves. They’ve been babying quarterbacks for far too long and it’s getting ridiculous. If players have to start counting their steps out there to make sure they don’t make that extra $7,500 stride, they’re liable to get hurt themselves. Imagine a player going full speed and bearing down on a quarterback. The quarterback then releases the ball just a second or two before the defensive lineman gets to him. These are upper-200 and 300-pound players; they’re not going to stop on a dime. The only way to avoid getting that fine would be to magically contort their bodies to avoid hitting the quarterback, which could leave open the possibility of a twisted ankle, a pulled muscle, or a blown-out knee.
The NFL has been instituting many rules lately in an effort to reduce potential injuries, such as the new special teams rule that prohibits three- and four-man wedges on kickoff returns to avoid possible concussions. I can understand that. You want to protect the health of these guys so that their quality of life after football is good, or at least better than those of players in the past. They’re human beings before they’re players.
But don’t be fooled by corporate NFL. What they’re really doing with all these rules that protect quarterbacks is they’re trying to protect their assets so as not to lose viewership and money.
I’ve got news for them: NFL fans aren’t going anywhere.
The NFL is an empire and it owns this country. Football is by far and away America’s sport and is the most popular one in the country. Baseball and basketball aren’t even close anymore. Hockey, golf, and racing are not even in the picture.
Face it, the NFL is in no danger of losing viewership any time soon, which is why this protecting of the superstar quarterback garbage is an antiquated notion. Just last season, the Patriots’ Tom Brady was hurt in the first game and yet there were hardly mass protests and empty stadiums. And Brady’s pretty-boy image and three Super Bowl rings arguably make him the face of the league. The Patriots did just fine both on the field and in the stadium seats because they had a capable backup in Matt Cassel.
I’d venture to say that the ten best quarterbacks in this league all could suffer injuries and the TV ratings and stadium attendance would hardly dip a bit.
While the NFL will make public claims that they’re concerned with the safety and health of their players — and to a large extent, I believe them — I know privately they’re concerned about their bottom line, however foolish that sounds to the rest of us.
Americans live for this sport and this is one stance on which they’re not going to waver.