So I came up with a more practical solution for the head injury conundrum in the NFL.
The way I see it, some head injuries are inevitable. It’s a physical game, as it should be, and a 250 pound linebacker charging 25 MPH at a 205 pound running back who catches the ball in the flat, there’s no way to safeguard the hit. Maybe the running back will be safe, maybe he won’t. But like I said, it’s a game where pain is inevitable, and there’s no definite way to prevent helmets from colliding when the athletes are in motion and are doing what their job dictates.
Last season, I watched as Brian Westbrook sustained the first of two serious concussions as he was being tackled to the ground, and his helmet collided with the knee of London Fletcher-Baker. It happens, and Fletcher-Baker felt awful. Like Brandon Meriweather, he hit an opponent in the head, but unlike Meriweather, it was a sheer accident.
So how do we begin to make distinctions?
It’s easy. Begin drug testing.
Hear me out.
Compare playing in the NFL to driving a car. Both are considered privileges, right? You have to obey certain bylaws and rules and meet certain standards of ethics and safety in order to participate in either.
In a car, if you drive while impaired, you could cause an accident and kill another motorist. In addition to potential jail time, you’ll probably have that license revoked. The point of the stiff punishment is to dissuade you and I from driving a car while drunk or high.
Here’s my plan.
During games, if a defensive player nails an offensive player in the helmet and causes either a serious injury, or had the potential to be serious, after the game, the player submits blood and urine samples to the league.
If the test comes back positive for cocaine, amphetamines, steroids, HGH, or a known masking agent, the player is IMMEDIATELY suspended for two years.
If the player is clean, then the league will review the hit to see if it was malicious, meaning there was intent to harm the opposing player. If they feel there was malicious intent, then they can suspend the player for a few games, depending on severity.
If the player appears to have done it by accident, just laid a vicious hit in the heat of the moment, without having adequate time to change trajectory or speed, the league tells the man “Just be careful out there” and lets him off.
There it is, cut and dry. If anyone disagrees with this, they’re either a player who willingly takes drugs, or they’re a fan who doesn’t want to “lose civil liberties in order to help The Man”.
And the world is better without either one.
Or maybe I’m just bitter because after going 12-2 a couple weeks back in my picks, I fell to 7-7 this week. Now I only have 13 games to work with, so I need at least seven right to avoid having a losing record in any week.
Brain, don’t fail me now. At least, don’t fail like the Broncos did in the first half on Sunday.
WEEK 7: 7-7
FOR THE YEAR: 60-44
13. Kansas City over Buffalo
Is it me, or is this the closest to a “sure thing” this week? I don’t know where Ryan Fitzpatrick found the stones to nearly eat Baltimore alive last week, but I think it has to do with that “Chuck Norris Beard”. However, even Chuck Norris would have issues with KC’s “contain, detain, sustain, create pain” defense, and Fitzpatrick probably just caught Baltimore napping. That performance will be fresh in Todd Haley’s brain when he puts Romeo Crennel to work, making sure they don’t get embarrassed also. Buffalo’s first win will just have to come later.
SCORE: Chiefs 41, Bills 14
12. St. Louis over Carolina
Does anyone believe the Panthers will follow up a narrow win over the hapless 49ers by beating the inconsistent-yet-capable Rams? St. Louis had to swallow a tough loss to the Bucs on Sunday, and good players follow tough losses with overcompensating wins. Carolina’s defense is 24th against the run, and Steven Jackson, though injured, still comes to town with the ability to make plays. Sam Bradford’s best bet is to work the flat and keep the defense on the field. In any event, what are the odds the Panthers win two in a row?
SCORE: Rams 27, Panthers 10
11. Tennessee over San Diego
No matter what happens in the McNabb/Kolb comparison game, I can take solace in the fact that when the Eagles let Donovan go, they got two draft picks for him, and didn’t cut him outright like the Chargers did with LaDainian Tomlinson. If the people of San Diego weren’t so mellow, they would have strung up AJ Smith with his esophagus by now. Their defense isn’t much better, which is why Chris Johnson’s going to go ‘human-joystick’ on them and run up the score. So much for San Diego’s high expectations.
SCORE: Titans 31, Chargers 14
10. New England over Minnesota
On the one hand, at least Tom Brady can pick up classically beautiful women with just his charisma and charm, unlike the “gunslinger” who hits on skanky cheerleaders with cellphone snapshots. On the other hand, Randy Moss knows the New England offense pretty well, and would certainly tip his hand to Leslie Frazier and the defense. Bill Belichick can alter plans, however, and I don’t think Moss’ inside info will make a difference. The Patriots will still have their way with Minnesota and, if it’s close, Favre will just screw up as usual.
SCORE: Patriots 24, Vikings, 13
9. Seattle over Oakland
Knowing the Raiders, they’ll go from 59 points one week to 3 the next. They’re a hard time to key on, and Seattle isn’t exactly the model of consistency, but I think the Seahawks are simply on a roll right now. Pete Carroll, if nothing else, brings a positive tone to the locker room, and he’s helped Mike Williams resurrect his career. After Williams had a brief stop in Oakland that basically signaled the end of his career, what better way to stick it his ex-employer than a big game Sunday?
SCORE: Seahawks 27, Raiders 17
8. Jacksonville over Dallas
Well, somebody has to win, and the Jags have stunned some good teams. Dallas, as we know, isn’t a good team, but they can be good for comedy. After handing over several games due to a lack of discipline, they lose Tony Romo for basically the season, and are now stuck with either Jon “Pick Six City” Kitna, or Stephen “You don’t know who I am, do you?” McGee. Maurice Jones-Drew has chances to get scores after the Cowboys invariably cough up the ball on their own side of the field, making the Jags’ chances a little easier.
SCORE: Jaguars 24, Cowboys 13
7. Tampa Bay over Arizona
I feel weird picking the Bucs so high after declaring Raheem Morris a dead-man-walking before the season. But, really, the Buccaneers defense has quite a clamp in its arsenal. Once Gerald McCoy and company stuff the run early, Max Hall’s going to have to throw, and the secondary of Tampa (Ronde Barber, Aqib Talib, Cody Grimm, etc) have great poaching skills. I would have put this game higher if Arizona didn’t have Larry Fitzgerald, who can beat double and triple coverage at times. But, then again, if the Cards still had Kurt Warner, I’d have picked them. Alas, they don’t.
SCORE: Buccaneers 20, Cardinals 10
6. Indianapolis over Houston
Opening day revenge, how sweet is the name. Peyton Manning and Indy watched in horror as Arian Foster ate his way through their defense and forced hundreds of fantasy owners to scour the free agents pool immediately. Both teams are coming off of a bye, and I’m anticipating a shoot out, but Manning wills his team with the help of Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon making the plays, since Austin Collie’s hurt. Watch out for Brody Eldridge, Dallas Clark’s replacement at tight end, who apparently is a Clark clone. He may become the Fred Davis to Clark’s Chris Cooley.
SCORE: Colts 31, Texans 24
Few things in football are as scary as rested Jets. Green Bay was a Super Bowl pick for many fans, but their defense isn’t living up to expectations. This is bad news, since Mark Sanchez finally has leveled up his skills to match his natural confidence. The Packers are going to have to match every Jets score with a counterpunch if they hope to have a shot, because I don’t see the Jets making too many errors. Aaron Rodgers has been a little “pick happy” lately, and this makes this game a bit easier to decide on.
SCORE: Jets 27, Packers 20
4. San Francisco over Denver
Congratulations, London! You get to watch untested Troy Smith take on shell shocked Kyle Orton. This is like if England was trying to push cricket onto Americans, and then sent over two teams of drunken street urchins to play a game for us. Mike Singletary needs this win, and he needs Troy Smith to show why he was overlooked as a starter in Baltimore (which I hold to be true). Denver’s defense has been ravaged by injuries, and this would be a good time to let Frank Gore carry the team to their second win.
SCORE: 49ers 21, Broncos 14
3. Miami over Cincinnati
My interest in this game has diminished now that Pacman Jones is out for the season. However, since the Dolphins basically got hosed on Sunday on an iffy call, it’s time they roar back with a win. T-Ocho has been carrying the Bengals, but the running game and Carson Palmer haven’t held up their end. The Dolphins hung in there with a tough Steelers team, and like I said about the Rams earlier, tough losses lead to big wins, due to the pent up frustration. The once great Bengals defense is going to watch Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown (Hit n Ron) decide this game.
SCORE: Dolphins 24, Bengals 17
2. Detroit over Washington
Don’t laugh; the Lions ended their futility streak last season by beating the ‘Skins. They’re also coming off of a bye, whereas the Redskins have had to play tough games back to back vs. the Colts and Bears. Jahvid Best has been quiet recently, and this may be the game where he comes to life again. The Lions just need to avoid throwing four picks to DeAngelo Hall, and make sure they keep their foot on the gas in the fourth quarter, to prevent the ‘Skins from getting their lucky comeback.
SCORE: Lions 24, Redskins 20
1. New Orleans over Pittsburgh
The last two Super Bowl champs, with divergently different quarterbacks. One of them, a charitable man with family values and the other is a Roethlisberger. However, karma has been backwards for both men, as Drew Brees can’t figure out how to make this year’s Saints look like last year’s, and Ben Roethlisberger is helming a suddenly impenetrable Steelers team. If the Saints lose here, you can about kiss their chances at a repeat goodbye, which is why I think they pull this off. If anything, I would hire some local ladies of the night of the French Quarter to seduce Ben. What could be more enticing than Halloween in the Big Easy? Let Roethlisberger go into Sunday’s game shaken and dizzy, and let the Saints march all over the best team in the league.
SCORE: Saints 27, Steelers 24
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