It was nasty. It was scary. It was rather unbelievable.
I watched Dunta Robinson’s hit on DeSean Jackson on Sunday live and with the sound all the way up. It was as big a hit as I’ve ever seen and I thought Jackson may never get up. It served as a painful reminder of how violent the game of football can be.
But what does the NFL want Robinson to do in that situation? As I wrote on Sunday following the game, do you want Robinson to lay Jackson down like a baby in a crib? Pull his flag? Two-hand touch him? Ask him politely to fall down in front of the first down marker?
You can see from the video that Robinson was already running to the ball after Kevin Kolb threw it. He was playing zone and once the ball was released, he spotted Jackson and ran to break up the pass. He was two steps too late, however, so he lowered his shoulder to try and separate Jackson from the ball. While others may see it differently, he didn’t stop, position himself and then launch into Jackson like a rocket ship coming off a launch bad. It was all one fluid motion.
Don’t misinterpret my defense of Robinson for not being concerned with Jackson’s (or any other player, for that matter) health. I love football and big hits just as much as anyone, but I too get a tingle up my spine when I see a player lie motionless on the turf.
But again I ask: What does the NFL want Robinson to do? Believe it or not, he led with his shoulder – not with his head. Obviously Jackson’s head caught a lot of the blow because it knocked him out, but Robinson still lead with his shoulder, which is what he’s instructed to do.
Maybe Robinson should have gone for the ball or drive his shoulder into Jackson’s gut. But what if Jackson would have caught the ball, made a move on Robinson and raced into the end zone for his third touchdown of the half? Then we’d be saying how Robinson should have laid him out or how he isn’t tough enough (an absurd claim if you’ve watched Robinson play over the years).
We can’t have it both ways. We can’t lambaste players for not being tough enough “these days” and then criticize them when they have to make a split decision that leads to a concussion for their opponent. And is it fair that we ask the player’s to police themselves? It’s a contact sport – you’re supposed to hit your foe.
The NFL has a serious problem on its hands and the issue isn’t going away. Every week, multiple players suffer head injuries and now that the league has made concussions a focal point, the problem seems to be growing. Even with all the advances in technology, we still can’t find a helmet that absorbs the impact between two players enough not to endanger them.
But the league needs to keep trying. Fining players isn’t the solution, but it should help minimize cheap hits like the one T.J. Ward laid on Jordan Shipley two weeks ago. Maybe it’ll stop players from launching themselves helmet-first into opponents if they know their wallet will receive a hit too. But again, Robinson’s hit on Jackson wasn’t cheap and that’s the hit that should have the NFL most concerned.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer here. Going to a helmet-less league isn’t a realistic option and fining players only does so much. Hopefully technology will eventually catch up and concussions will be limited. But as of right now, the problem isn’t underlying – it’s front and center.