By Jeff Fox
The year was 1978. The Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Cleveland Browns and Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert was flagged for a late hit on Brown’s quarterback Brian Sipe.
This resulted in an all out brawl as Brown’s players left the bench to defend their teammate as they should have .
Lambert was ejected from the game and eventually fined after meeting with the NFL commissioner.
The Cleveland players that he brawled with got off with a warning.
It was after this game that Lambert came out with his infamous quote : Quarterbacks Should All Wear Skirts.
That was then. More recently on Monday Night Football this past week, there was a throwback AFC North match up between the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals that resulted in some serious injuries due to big time hits. Football purists loved it. Visions of Ronnie Lott and Jack Tatum were rampant i’m sure.
The league handed out suspensions for Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for his open-field block on Cincy linebacker Vontaze Burfict, which came with a taunt as Smith-Schuster stood over the injured Burfict and admired his work . Also fined Bengals safety George Illoka for his mega blast on the Steelers’ wide out Antonio Brown.
Now we are hearing from league official Troy Vincent that the NFL might adopt college football’s targeting rule that ejects players for seemingly dangerous hits.
This apparantly was too much for Steelers safety Mike Mitchell who went on an epic rant and i really do not know if i disagree with him.
“Hand us all some flags, and we’ll go out there and try to grab the flags off. Because we’re not playing football,” said Mitchell on Wednesday from his locker. “This is not damn football. When I was 6 years old watching Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson, Sean Taylor, the hitters, Jack Tatum. That’s football. This ain’t football. You have to know the risk when you sign up. No one wants to be paralyzed. No one wants to have head injuries. These are all things that are negative. But let’s not try to turn football into a dangerous, barbaric game.
“This is how I changed my family legacy. Before I got drafted, I had $368 to my bank account. That is far from the case today. I’ve changed my family legacy by this beautiful game of football forever. So let’s not try to turn this into some evil, dirty game. It’s football. It’s no different than UFC fighting. This a combat, contact sport. There’s gonna be injuries. That’s just what it is. But if you don’t want to get injured, don’t come out here. This is for real men. This is a man’s game. Ray Lewis said that a couple of years ago, and I stand by that. It’s a man’s game. If you don’t want to be a little kid and get your ass hit, don’t come out here. This is for grown men. Straight like that.”
Sounds to me like the man has a point. Either you are in or you are out. Players take the field knowing all the risks. Mitchell was spot on with his rant. Unfortunately injuries are a part of the equation. This must be extremely frustrating for them. I made a choice of not allowing my son to play football despite his desire to do so. Too dangerous, head trauma, CTE etc. Nope, not gonna happen despite the potential for great financial rewards. I chose not to risk it for my kid.
The NFL is clearly looking to protect it’s players, not only the quarterbacks but they want to ultimately make the game safer for everyone. Mitchell is saying in doing so they are basically “putting skirts on the players” a la Jack Lambert. The hypocrisy in all of this is the NFL sells the big hits in video games and promo reels. There was a segment on ESPN’s MNF called “Jacked Up ” which was not based on grabbing flags. You cannot have it both ways. The game is what it is. It is violent , a modern day gladiator sport. Seems to me the NFL has a decision to make. Flag football anyone ?
More from Jeff Fox here: http://thesportsbros.com/nfl-hypocritical-big-hits/