° empty

Goodell wants to change NFL for the worse

Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove are all feeling some level of vindication I’m sure.

The four players indicted in the Saints’ bounty scandal had their suspensions vacated by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue Tuesday, a ruling that had to be at least a bit shocking to current commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell appointed Tagliabue to oversee the player appeals process of the bounty suspensions, and Tagliabue ultimately ruled that the players were subject to fines, but not suspensions. Essentially, he was unwilling to suspend players over what he felt was more of a problem with the Saints’ culture as a team.

Some will say this ruling gives Goodell a black eye, in that it brings into question just how much authority he has over matters of player conduct. However you feel about the way Goodell managed this whole situation, though, the Bountygate scandal should be the least of NFL fans’ worries.

Almost lost in the many reaction stories to Tagliabue were two other reports that caught my eye. One dealt with Goodell being open to expanding the playoffs from 12 to either 14 or 16 teams. The other was about his openness to eliminating kickoffs.

Here’s the thing: The argument for eliminating kickoffs essentially revolves around the idea that they’re dangerous due to players running at high speeds and colliding.

Let’s assume for a second that player protection is of the utmost importance to Goodell. Wouldn’t adding games to the postseason be counter-productive to the goal of player safety? At first glance, these two stories seem contradictory. One proposed change would allegedly make the game safer. The other would add more games to the season, thus adding the likelihood that injuries occur. The more games, the more plays, the more chances someone gets hurt.

I feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but what is the point in trying to completely change a game that is, by its nature, not “safe?” It’s like the measures people go through to “protect” a pitcher’s arm. Of course, you want to do everything you can to ensure a pitcher has the right mechanics and doesn’t throw a ridiculous amount of pitches during a season. But given that overhand is an unnatural motion to begin with, there’s only so much precaution you can take.

If you want to truly protect a pitcher’s arm, tell him he can’t pitch ever again. Likewise, if you want to protect a football player, tell him to hang up the pads and cleats.

I’m all for research being done to improve players’ equipment. I’m all for teaching athletes the proper way to tackle. There’s a difference between playing physical and playing like you want to hurt someone. The former is to be commended; the latter, condemned.

But football is a dangerous sport. It’s a collision sport made up of big, strong athletes going at each other at high speeds. Every time I get in my car, I know there’s a chance, however small, I could get seriously hurt, or killed. Likewise, these players know there’s a chance they could suffer a life-altering injury.

So, Commissioner Goodell, do us all a favor and stop trying to turn the NFL into flag football. Let the game be played the way it was meant to be played.

The four players that had their suspensions revoked may be feeling vindication, but if Goodell really goes through with some of these proposed changes, NFL fans most certainly won’t be.


Michael Kerekes is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or michael.kerekes@natchezdemocrat.com.