Opposing view on football: 'You don't aim, you react'
By Hunter Hillenmeyer
I suffered a concussion in the Bears' third preseason game, against the Cardinals. Lingering symptoms from that incident and a history of multiple concussions landed me on injured reserve after only one game.
OUR VIEW: Sunday's lights-out body count shows NFL needs to change
My path in the NFL might lead you to believe I would give the loudest applause for harsher penalties for helmet-to-helmet hits. Yet, I think immediate suspension and ejection of players for these violent hits would be a huge mistake.
Take this past weekend's example when Falcons corner Dunta Robinson hit Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. To mandate a fine, much less a suspension or ejection, in that incident would imply malicious intent on Robinson's part.
Let me level with you from the defender's perspective: DeSean Jackson is one of the most explosive players in the NFL. Defenders are in panic mode when DeSean gets his hands on the ball. The mind-set is "make the tackle, hopefully knock the ball loose."
The speed of our game is so fast that, on a hit like that, you don't aim, you react. Would Dunta really choose to knock DeSean (and himself) out for the game? Of course not. In fact, as a defensive player, if I don't make that play, coaches will find someone else who will.
It's too easy to slap a fine on a player and ignore the fact that every other incentive in his football universe rewards that same aggression. The onus is not just on the players. The whole culture of football has to change to really make the game safer.
I have sat through multiple competition committee meetings where great football minds deliberate about ways to adjust the rulebook to make our game safer. The primary role of the fines system is to deter future behavior. Sending fines through the roof or instituting an immediate ejection policy midseason would be a PR move, not a legitimate step towards safety.
Judging intent is a very tricky thing to do. Punishing players for anything but the most egregious, deliberate headhunting would not make the game safer. Reaching that goal requires a comprehensive overhaul, including improvements in health care, equipment and research, not just a reaction to the gasp-inducing hits on Sunday.
Hunter Hillenmeyer is in his eighth season as a linebacker with the Chicago Bears. An NFL Players Association player representative, he serves on the NFLPA Traumatic Brain Injury Committee and the Player Safety and Welfare Committee.