You see a hit like the one Thomas Davis put on Davante Adams on Sunday and you see a need for the NFL to really explore a targeting rule, something similar to what officials have in college where a player can be ejected for an illegal hit, subject to a video review.
That hit, it was illegal. It was flagrant. It knocked Adams out of a game the Green Bay Packers lost, and eventually they were eliminated from playoff contention.
You could tell Thomas was upset about it, whether he was upset that Adams was hurt or upset at the penalty or upset because he felt that he shouldn’t have made that play.
But at the same time Adams is no longer available for that team the rest of the day and the interesting thing is the guy who took his place ended up fumbling on the last play of the game when Green Bay was trying to make a comeback. That’s the difficult part. The Carolina Panthers were able to eliminate Adams, who had been the Packers’ most productive receiver over the past six weeks, and all it took was a 15-yard penalty.
I know everyone wants to believe that guys aren’t that malicious and that teams don’t think about things like that. I can tell you from experience that when there’s a turnover or there’s a chance to take a shot at a guy on the offensive side of the ball, I know they look for the quarterbacks, and they’re teeing up other guys also. I don’t want to say anyone is malicious, but there’s definitely that aspect.
When you’re going to fine someone X dollars for a hit and it’s only a 15-yard penalty, I think they’re going to take that chance everyday. That’s where taking a guy out of a football game is going to make people pay attention really quickly.
The targeting rule in college is very aggressive, but it’s very decisive. If a hit like that takes place, Davis would not be in that football game. Not that it’s fair for that to happen, but if the Packers are going to lose Adams, then Davis shouldn’t be allowed to play in that game.
Davis on Monday was suspended for two games, which has since been reduced to one game on appeal. But I think there has to be something where he doesn’t finish the game against the Packers. I would rather it happen right away, if we can have the appropriate people taking a look at it. It’s the right thing to do.
The NFL has said it will consider targeting this offseason, and it does get controversial. We’ve seen a lot of guys in college get kicked out of games on some questionable calls. But I would hope the NFL would make better decisions. It definitely has the technology to take a look at that – we have instant replay for everything. It also has access to former players, who would be the best arbiters to make those rulings.
That’s the smartest way to do it, and I know there are a ton of guys who would love to do it. In Adams’ case it would be great to have a former defensive player there, an unbiased guy who can tell you straight up what it was and what happened.
I just don’t know if someone who hasn’t done it before can tell you, “OK, that was a malicious strike. He was trying to take him out” or “He was actually trying to make a good tackle here, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.” It’s like asking a guy about driving a race car who has never been in one to make the rules. You have to get the guy who has been in that cockpit and had to make decisions at 200 mph.
That would make the most sense, and it would make defensive guys think a little more: “OK, I have to really make this clean because not only is it a 15-yard penalty, I might not finish this football game and we have to win this thing.”
The league has to look at it. Honestly, there are a lot of rules the NFL has to take a look at this offseason because it’s starting to get to the point where you have some frustration, not just fans but people who played the game. It’s not a good look. The catch rule. The targeting thing. You want to try to continue to improve this game. I know people say, “I don’t want to change too many rules,” and I completely agree with that.
But there are ways you could improve the game. You have to be willing to listen to ex-players. Bring in as many as you can and get as much good solid advice and wisdom that you can and then make decisions.
They’d be doing the right thing if they did that.
Question of the week
From Anna Cruz: When you first started playing football you played on mostly natural turf surfaces and when you played for the NFL it was on an artificial turf. Did you prefer natural turf over artificial turf? Did you have to adjust your playing skills when playing on an artificial turf? Can you elaborate on the advantages/disadvantages and safety aspects to playing on either turf?
The artificial stuff is nice and it’s better than it was 10 years ago. The only problem is it tends to wear your body down more than natural grass. Natural grass is always going to be the absolute dream scenario. It’s so much better than anything you could play on. But the maintenance, the wear. When I was in Houston, by the end of the season, they would have a couple of college games on it every year, some high school games, and these fields all wear down. It’s impossible to have that many football games played on a surface in six or seven months and not have it wear down and at the end of the season when you need it the most it’s absolutely ruined. Even in Houston, we had spray paint. It was green spray paint and dirt toward the end of the season. The way Arizona’s field is, where they can slide it out and keep natural grass on there and slide it back in, that’s the nicest field that I’ve played on and I think a lot of guys would say the same thing.
The artificial stuff makes me a little nervous because it grabs. It’s so grippy you could wear a basketball shoe on that stuff and still have some grip. When you start putting cleats in that, there have been a lot more injuries. I’m not saying it’s because of the artificial surface, but I think guys really have to think about what they wear on that. Sure, you can make some incredible cuts and you can move and you can run, but it can also grab your leg and put your knee in positions you don’t want it to be in.
The cleat size, you have to be careful about how far in you want to grab. Grip is great, until you’re out for a month or you’re out for a year – and it doesn’t take much. If I have my preference, I’m playing on grass all day long.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital
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