Players and league need to worry about consequences more than images

The Washington Post's LaVar Arrington discusses his personal experience with concussions and offers his opinion on how the NFL is dealing with the recent rash of head injuries on Football Insider Live.
By Tracee Hamilton
Friday, October 22, 2010; 11:52 PM

The back-and-forth this week between righteous NFL officials and indignant NFL players has given me a headache. Not an NFL-sized headache - not a DeSean Jackson-sized headache - but still.

Everyone needs to step back and take a deep breath.

Thirty-two NFL players have suffered concussions this season, that we know of. Among them are Redskins Chris Cooley, Anthony Bryant and Rocky McIntosh. The Eagles have lost six players to concussion. Could there be more? Absolutely. Given the outcry among NFL players, including teammates of the victims, it's likely that not everyone who takes a shot to the head is eager to report it.

At the end of this weekend's games, there likely will be still more victims. Several players have already declared their head-hunting intentions. Hard hitting cannot be fined out of the NFL in seven days, even by the powerful Roger Goodell.

But it's time the NFL stopped patting itself on the back for recognizing the problem and dealing with it so quickly. Because it's been anything but quick. The NFL enacted no new rules this week. Rather, the league decided to start enforcing rules that were already on the books. If your local police department suddenly began enforcing a previously ignored speed limit, then used the increase in the amount of tickets issued as a way to tout its efficacy, you'd be skeptical, wouldn't you?

There are a lot of rules in the NFL rulebook, yet among those we've seen rigorously enforced this season is the arcane definition-of-a-catch rule, which cost Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions a victory in Week 1. That one was so esoteric it had to be explained with a telestrator and claymation figures, but okay, it's in the book, so that's fair. Sunday, we saw the three-player wedge cost the Redskins' special teams unit. It sounds like something Frank Merriwell, Schoolboy, would have run, but again, it's in the book.

So were rules to prevent spearing, and leading with the helmet when hitting the opponent, and pretty much everything we're seeing in those three clips from last Sunday.

Brandon Meriweather of the Patriots was fined $50,000 for violating Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 (f). Atlanta's Dunta Robinson was fined $50,000 for violating Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 (g). James Harrison of Pittsburgh violated that one and Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 (h) and was fined $75,000.

Harrison was so traumatized by his rules violations and the possible harm he could have inflicted on both Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi of Cleveland that he needed a day off from practice to ponder retirement.

Well, not quite.

"I'm going to sit down and have a serious conversation with my coach and see if I can actually play by NFL rules and still be effective," Harrison said. "If not, I may have to give up playing football."

Ah, yes, the "poor, misunderstood me" defense. As Shakespeare or the Little Rascals or somebody put it, "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I'll go eat worms."

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