Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Jan 2012

Did Giants Strategically Concuss Kyle Williams?

This is, uh, a little disturbing to say the least. Devin Thomas and Jacquain Williams are quoted as saying that Kyle Williams' history of concussions played a factor in how the Giants went after him on Sunday.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 23 Jan 2012

117 comments, Last at 20 May 2012, 7:42pm by Never Surrender


by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 10:50pm

The worst part is that it's not even conspiracy or speculation, just straight from the horse's ass.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:05pm

Why is it disturbing? Going after the weak/injured limbs/organs on your opponents has been a part of athletic competition for 2500 years. Surely this isn't new to you?

If I guy has a glass jaw boxers try to concuss him, if your high school hockey opponent is playing with a broken wrist you try to slash it, if your opposing QB had a shoulder injury you drive him into the ground more.

These thigns are becoming more frowned upon in athletics, but they are hardly so much of the past that something like this should be surprising.

Jacked up! was what less than ten years ago?

Everyone likes to talk a big game on player safety, but frankly no one really cares. You could make the players infinitely safer with really really minor changes to the overall game, yet no one is interested in those changes because they really only want to chip away at the edges.

by BroncosGuyAgain :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:26pm

It is disturbing because the code among football players is "I'll hit him as hard as I can, within the confines of the rules, but never to intentionally cause injury". The comments from the Giants' players fly directly in the face of that standard. The implication is that they made a concerted effort to inflict a career- or life-threatening head injury. With that said, the article is conspicuously lacking in evidence of an actual hit by the Giants to cause a head injury to Williams. There is a lot of dubious suggestion that Williams was concussed, but no evidence offered that the Giants actually acted to injure Williams. Still, the very suggestion of it is, in fact, disturbing.

Your "it has always been thus" argument is completely non-supportive. Murder dates back to Cain and Abel, and yet, even in these modern times, it is generally frowned upon.

Also, if you purposefully slash a high school hockey player on the wrist -- whether there is a prior injury there or not -- you probably should not walk among us.

(Wow. "Infinitely safer". I would love to see that.)

by Dales :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:37pm


by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 1:52am

Umm no physical sport I ever played in played with those rules.

At age 13 our football chant was "What makes the grass grow? Blood! Blood! Blood! What are we going to do? Kill! Kill! Kill! and that was less than 20 years ago.

No ones parents thought it odd, no one complained. And it also wasn't meant in a metaphorical manner, we really were told to go out there and try to hurt people (within the confines of the rules).

If anything hockey was worse in a lot of ways. If the opposing team was being overly rough (in your coaches eyes) you were actively told to go injure one of their better players. This is like at age 14.

Maybe you just didn't play serious contact sports?

You really didn't think that pro football players were out there trying to hurt each other some of the time? Have you even watched football. There is the level of sportsmanship, and sure maybe 20-80% of the time it stays on that level.

But if someone got hurt last game, or someone is getting embarrassed, or there was an uncalled penalty, or two guys just don't like each other, or 15 other freaking things they start head hunting. it is really really obvious and happened all the time even this season.

I know people like to pretend that the NFL is nothing like say Roman Gladiatorial games, but it has a lot more in common than you seem willing to admit to yourself.

You are paying to watch a fake war and the more convincing it is the more people are generally willing to pay.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:03pm

Where did you grow up, Sparta?

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:16pm


We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

by jebmak :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 9:47am


by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:19pm

Look up the etymology of the word "trophy" sometime. Football is closer to Classical Infantry Battle than you think, and played for the same reasons (e.g. my town is better than your town).

by Agamemnon :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 3:05pm


by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 2:36pm

I grew up on the poor side of town in a rust belt city.

by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 5:05pm

what Joshua is saying rings true to my experience in competitive hockey as a kid. I grew up in Toronto in the 70s and we were taught to butt end players in the corners, take baseball chops at the ankles of opponents, and when we hit people we were trying to send them to the hospital. Heck, Bobby Clark was hailed as a hero in Canada when he broke the ankle of the best Russian player in the 72 Summit Series with a baseball chop to his ankle. The play is in the link below at around 35 seconds in.


As for today, it seems to me that there is a lot of talk and more awareness of what the athletes are risking - but both games seem even more violent than in the past.

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 5:24pm

Watch Deacon Jones or Dick Butkus and tell me the game is more violent today.

by JonFrum :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 6:02pm

Those guys couldn't play in the NFL today. Butkus was famous for pile-driving ballcarriers. And in every pileup, they were poking each other's eyes and twisting their nads. The NFL grew in popularity by showing those highlight films of guys getting clotheslined and lifted and driven into the turf. Even as late as Ronnie Lott, you have a guy who couldn't stay on the field today.

by BroncosGuyAgain :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 1:53am

The "Kill! Kill! Kill!" chant was literal?

I hope your coaches gave you guns or knives. Killing a fellow thirteen-year-old with your bare hands is pretty difficult, especially if you have to give up at the whistle. Setting an expectation for the players without giving them the tools to fulfill it would be really bad coaching.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 5:53pm

Literal in that they literally wanted us to hurt people, as opposed to just be something to psyche us up.

It wasn't just a chant, it was a description. Literal was maybe not quite the right word, but that was what I was trying to say. We weren't saying it mindlessly, we were chanting about hurting people and spilling blood.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 1:55am

Here is rule 1 for infinitely safer.

1) No more taking players down with your shoulder. No "hitting". You can still grapple/tackle someone to the ground, but you can not take them down by using the force of your body to destabilize them. This rule manages to work in every no pads tackle football game I have ever played in with rare exceptions, and works fine (without the tackling) in every mens league hockey game I have played in.

It would barely change anything about the NFL. Yet it isn't even discussed. you could combine it with a roll back of some of the myriad of rules changes to help the offense to keep the game balanced.

Honestly Mr. Bronco I thin you are more interested in being outraged than real solutions. just like 90% of the fans. All talk but no real appetite for change.

Hence my "it has always been thus" demeanor.

by Mello :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 7:16am

Are you serious or trolling?

Go watch baseball and stop screwing with the sport we love. It's obviously not for you.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 2:47pm

See that sis what I love about this issue.

I love that I have people telling me both to "go to sparta" and to "go watch baseball" in the same thread. That was exactly my point.

It is possible to be a hard ass and still think change is a good thing, believe it or not.

Instead you have a huge portion of the football comentariat arguing both for:

the league should do more about concussions
for gods sakes don't change any of the rules

And in a lot of cases it is the very same people. People who frankly like complaining about things and starting arguments more than they like actual solutions to problems.

My position is succinctly, "this isn't actually a big deal, but if people really insist it is you can make changes rather easily".

Except people don't seem to be willing to make changes. So clearly they don't really think it is a big deal. They just like pretending they do.

by Greg Fleming (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:20am

For what it's worth, Rugby has this rule. It's illegal to take someone down without at least attempting to wrap your arms around them. And, of course, people don't deliberately try to go head-to-head, since they're not wearing helmets. They still have a concussion problem, though.

by Jimmy Oz (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:12pm

In most Rugby (Union) tackles, they're protecting the ball and making sure that the opposition don't steal it in the ruck or maul. They're not trying to break tackles most of the time. So they made that weak rule to ban hitting cos rugby is as weak as piss.

Rugby League on the other hand, that's the greatest game of all.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 2:14am

In most scenarios gaining an extra foot in Rugby is nowhere near as valuable as doing the same in football. That, among other things, leads to very different tackles.

by Never Surrender (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:31am

I agree with what you are saying and have long advocated for this change in philosophy.

In fact there is already a well established set of rules for tackling — used in rugby — that would immediately improve the safety of the game without turning it into another sport. Just a few basic changes: no "shoulder charges" (hitting without intent to wrap up); if you lift a player into the air with your tackle, it's incumbent on you to bring them safely to the ground (no driving or dropping); no launching / leaving your feet to make a tackle ("spearing").

Very simple changes, all of which would work back in the concept of tackling as opposed to mere hitting.

If anyone finds this too radical, please note that these rules changes are more or less what the NFL has -already- imposed in the "defenseless receiver" situations in the last couple of years. Amazingly (but not surprisingly to those of us who watch rugby), it hasn't changed the game for the worse. Safeties and corners still make hits on receivers, even big hits, but the really dangerous ones have been minimized.

There's a reason rugby players don't need to wear pads, and it's not because a rugby player is simply tougher than a football player.

(The lack of highly effective padding would also, ironically, make for greater player safety. More pads = more players using their bodies as missiles. That's another change the league could make that would have a big impact overnight.)

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 11:24am

In rugby, slight changes in field position are not very important, while they can be in the NFL. This allows defenders to ride ball carriers to the ground without trying to stand them up with a big hit.

Imagine a 1st goal at the 1 where defenders aren't allowed to leave their feet to tackle. Even a replacement level running back could leap over the line for the TD, every single time.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:28pm

(The lack of highly effective padding would also, ironically, make for greater player safety. More pads = more players using their bodies as missiles. That's another change the league could make that would have a big impact overnight.)

That's a frequent misconception.

Gridiron Football adopted pads specifically because the more open and higher-speed nature of the game made its collisions much more dangerous than rugby's, and players were dying at an appalling rate -- and these were collisions between slow, small frat boys, not Olympian-caliber professional titans we have today.

Take the pads out of football and there won't be injuries any more. There will be deaths.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:57pm

Interesting. Post some specific examples if you can, because you apparently are talking all the way back to the leather helmet days or before? I've seen lots of tackle games without pads in my lifetime and never seen a serious injury, let alone a death. Not pro caliber players, obviously, but still.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 11:23pm

I think it would be a mixed bag but eliminating pads certainly wouldn't eliminate all serious injuries. Some stuff would get better, some would be worse, some would stay the same.

One play that looks terrifying but seems to rarely produce serious injuries now is when a guy gets flipped upside down and comes straight down on his head. But, the bottom of the helmet usually impacts the shoulder pads, thus keeping the neck and spine from compressing. Guys typically jump right up from those plays now. But without helmets and pads, that'd be a very dangerous play.

And you see guys trying to make tackles come in low and basically get knocked out by the runner's legs when they impact their head. That play would likely stay just the same regardless whether there were pads or not.

However, I think leading with the head would disappear instantly if modern helmets were taken out of the game.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 12:42pm

If you pay close attention, you see the head usually flexes forward. You can flex your neck far enough forward to where your jaw actually fractures your sternum before your neck will break from the rotation. Spinal injuries come from buckling failures where the spine is forced in axial compression -- which is why spearing is so dangerous for the spearer. In those cases, fracture proceeds gross motion. They're already injured before you see the head move relative to the torso.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 11:46pm

Well if you go all the way back to before helmets at all, there were certainly lots of deaths.

Here's a short excerpt from Wikipedia referring to college football :

"1905 had been a bloody year on the gridiron; the Chicago Tribune reported 18 players had been killed and 159 seriously injured that season.[3] There were moves to abolish the game. But President Theodore Roosevelt personally intervened and demanded that the rules of the game be reformed. In a meeting of more than 60 schools in late 1905, the commitment was made to make the game safer. This meeting was the first step toward the establishment of what would become the NCAA and was followed by several sessions to work out "the new rules."[4]

The final meeting of the Rules Committee tasked with reshaping the game was held on April 6, 1906, at which time the forward pass officially became a legal play.[2] The New York Times reported in September 1906 on the rationale for the changes: "The main efforts of the football reformers have been to 'open up the game'—that is to provide for the natural elimination of the so-called mass plays and bring about a game in which speed and real skill shall supersede so far as possible mere brute strength and force of weight."[5] However the Times also reflected widespread skepticism as to whether the forward pass could be effectively integrated into the game: "There has been no team that has proved that the forward pass is anything but a doubtful, dangerous play to be used only in the last extremity."[6] The forward pass was not allowed in Canadian football until 1929.[7]"

by markus (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 7:58pm

That segment from Wiki doesn't seem to support the hypothesis that eliminating pads would automatically drive up serious injuries and deaths in today's game. It sounds like the "mass plays" as they call them were to blame for most of the injuries and deaths. They moved towards a more open and faster game to make things safer. And apparently things did get markedly safer in short order, long before hard plastic helmets, modern shoulder pads, or even facemasks were implemented.

That is a ton of deaths involving guys who weren't anywhere close to being as fast or as heavy as modern players. Were guys getting crushed under the pile?

My theory has long been that the game would be much safer if helmets were still allowed, but lightened up to something closer to what you see in hockey and lacrosse. Those will still offer protection, but they aren't weapons. Guys lead with their heads because they feel indestructable. Take that away and soon nobody would be going in head first.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 12:45pm

You don't see many grievous injuries in pee-wee football, either.

But in stadiums seating 50,000 or more, with entire entourages traveling to road meetings, where college or town pride is on the line, the games gets more cut-throat. In those contexts, the old unpadded days of football were often starkly dangerous.

Watterson's book is entirely too hung up on the scandals of college football, but the early history sections of the sport are fascinating.

by Nathan :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 1:26pm

You don't see many grievous injuries in pee-wee football, either. But in stadiums seating 50,000 or more, with entire entourages traveling to road meetings, where college or town pride is on the line, the games gets more cut-throat.

perhaps this has less to do with college and town pride and more to do with the difference between a collection of random 8 year olds and a selection of athletic, enormous, grown men

by Never Surrender (not verified) :: Sat, 03/17/2012 - 3:34pm

It's not a misconception. In American football at that time, most things were not illegal: forearms to the head, high tackles, punching . . . and the style of play often ended in mass pileups that were not tightly controlled (as they are in rugby, if the ball has disappeared from the ref's sight).

The lack of tackling rules had much more to do with serious injury and death than the open-field collision style of play. Watch a contemporary rugby game and tell me there aren't "high-speed collisions between Olympian-caliber professional titans." The rules are what keeps the game from getting out of hand.

Take the major padding out of the NFL — and enforce rugby tackling rules, a key component you left out — and injuries will be greatly reduced.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sat, 03/17/2012 - 7:12pm

In rugby an extra couple of yards hardly ever matters. In football it's often critical. That changes tackling dramatically.

by Never Surrender (not verified) :: Sun, 05/20/2012 - 7:42pm

You are shifting the emphasis from violent collisions to the straining and contorting people do to make an extra yard (something that actually does happen a fair bit in rugby at the breakdown, FWIW — though this is beside the point). This is nonresponsive, and as best as I can tell what I've said above still stands.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 11:47am

"It would barely change anything about the NFL."

That's where I'd think most people, myself included, would disagree. It would change the way a lot of teams play, likely wind up changing alignments and strategies, and also change which type of players and body types are suitable for which positions.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 2:49pm

Have you ever played 7 on 7 or 9 on 9 tackle with a bunch of college age guys with no pads? It is essentially the same game. Different yes, but essentially the same. You aren't going to solve this issue with little half measures at the edges.

So either stop whining about what grown men do to themselves, or accept some sensible rule changes.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 9:45pm

I have played that way, and I don't think it's the same game.

I agree with you that eliminating "hitting" is ultimately where things are headed and probably a necessary change. I'm just disagreeing that it would be as insignificant as you think it would.

Not whining at all here; I also don't think that many of the others are whining - I think they're genuinely concerned about two things : 1) Continuing to be able to watch the game they love, and 2) player safety.

Nothing wrong with hoping that there's a solution to 2 that doesn't change 1 too much.

by GlennW :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 3:50pm

I'm having a hard time reconciling such a rule change (which at minimum would be difficult to enforce) with the prior opinion of "what's so wrong about trying to give a concussed player another one?" What good are such rules if they're just going to be flouted so cavalierly anyway-- even in a deliberate attempt to injure?

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 6:43pm

See my post 54.

I am frustrated with all the people who seem to advocate both *stop the violence, violence is horrible* AND *for heaven's sake don't change one thing about my precious precious football*.

You can have relatively minor change, or you can have what you have now (several concussions a game minimum whether they are reported or not).

I don't see the several concussions think as a big deal personally (I could take them or leave them), but clearly a lot of people do, so I suggested a change that might help that problem.

by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 6:25pm

I agree with Joshua on point 1. Hell it would actually improve the game! How many times have you guys bitched and moaned about missed tackles? Forcing them to actually wrap up and not rely on shoulders or the head would make defenses a lot better than they are now, and the game a lot safer.

by BroncosGuyAgain :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 2:07am

I am not outraged. I am outrageously curious. You only provided item #1 on what must be a much more extensive list. One rule change on tackling seems pretty inconsequential on the quest for "infinitely safer". Actually, I'm a pretty broad-minded guy; I would be fascinated by anything you could make infinitely better. I realize the list of possibilities does not include basic grammar, punctuation, logic, or football, but I remain optimistic of your potential; after all, improvement beyond any measurement is a goal worth pursuing.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 6:01pm

2) You cannot fumble any more, if you drop the ball the play is over, your team gets it 5 yards back from where you dropped it (Less incentive to pop the ball out, concuss people, et cetera).

3) You cannot wear cleats (Fewer lower body injuries because your feet cannot catch as much).

4) No more kicking. You simply get the ball at the 20, one teams goes, when they fail to get a first down or are intercepted the other team gets the ball (Removes the kicking game a situation where people are running at each other full speed that disproportionately causes injuries).

There are three more examples, I have more but I am working right this second.

And infinitely was obviously hyperbole (which I slip into when I am frustrated with peopel). "Significantly" would have been a better choice.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 5:31am

In addition to the conspicuously absent evidence of a specific hit, there's also a lot of spin going on. The article is weasels out by implying that there was an attempt to concuss without actually coming out and saying it. The quotations would be just as consistent with a team putting hard hits on a guy who they think may be fearful in order to make him play more protectively (which I'm pretty sure is standard practice) as they are with a team trying to cause a concussion.

by Not Saying :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:09am

"The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game."
That is flat out saying that they wanted to concuss him out of the game. You can argue about whether they did that or whether they should have done that, but it doesn't seem arguable that they tried.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 2:26am

No. It's saying they knew he had prior concussions and that fact was connected with wanting to take him out of the game. Now the obvious implication is that they wanted to make use of the concussions to take him out of the game (as opposed to, for example, being very concerned with his health and therefore not wanting him to play). But the mechanism by which concussions would be used to remove him from this game is unclear from the quotation alone. The article wants you to conclude they intended to concuss him. But it is just as consistent that they intended to use the fear of concussion to diminish his play.

by RichC (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2012 - 12:13am

"but never to intentionally cause injury"

Nobody has ever said that. Almost every lineman in football talks about fingers in eyes, and such under the pile. They ARE trying to injure each other.

by Dales :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:26pm

You mean, they wanted to hit a guy who might be gun-shy hard, to see if they could get a miscue?

Stop the presses!

If they had been head-hunting yesterday, then I can see getting upset. Otherwise, it sounds to me like a big old "duh, what else would you expect a team to do?"

by MJK :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:26pm

And people accuse Bill Belichick and Tony Dungy for being dicks because they're less than honest on the official injury reports. This is maybe part of the reason why.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:46pm

Pregame injury reports showed BB played two starters with concussions. Just sayin'

by RickD :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:06pm

Congratulations on finding a way to turn a report on head-hunting by the Giants into a reason to call Belichick a dick.

by Kurt :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 1:37pm

Congratulations on finding a way to turn the big fluffy ball of nothing linked at the top into a report on head-hunting by the Giants.

by MJK :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:30pm

This is actually kind of sickening... It's not like knowing a guy has a gimpy ankle or a sore rib and trying to purposely hit it hard to knock him out of the game (which I always found dirty and reprehensible, but I'm not naieve and I realize it's part of the game).

But concussions are something that can cause lasting brain injury, early onset of dementia, and shorten lifespans, far more than a cracked rib or bad ankle. This is not only trying to get an advantage in a game, but trying to wreck a player's long term life in order to get an advantage in the game.

I don't know what one could do about that, but I hope something could be done.

Disclaimer: I study traumatic brain injury as part of my job.

by GK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:07am

I agree entirely that it's sickening. As a Giants fan, when I stumbled upon this earlier, I immediately winced.

What's disturbing is that we should entirely expect this sort of behavior from every athlete, because the nature of professional football creates incentive for this behavior, and that I'm unsure of how you can possibly mitigate such incentive. A player's physical weakness is ripe for exploitation in a physical sport; see the laughably vague description of injuries in the NHL as either "upper body" or "lower body", to prevent preying upon the particular injured area.

While I don't recall any instances of headhunting, even if it occurred, what's the penalty? 15 yards for unnecessary roughness and a $7500 forced donation to the NFL United Way fund? Not enough to deter the actions. Fine the players for the commentary? It will just eliminate discussion, not action.

We, the fans, must accept that exploitation of injuries including concussions is, quite logically, a part of the sport we all love so dearly, and **that's** why it unsettles us.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:34am

I think I've said this in the past, but the NHL (now sometimes called the No Hitting League) actually sets a fairly good example on Brain Injuries. Sidney Crosby, arguably one of their biggest stars, continues to sit because of concussions, and the league goes on, even managing higher ratings during last year's playoffs. Players get suspended for targeting the head. Every time. Regardless of which position the other guy plays. Boarding (which can paralyze a guy, or at the very least drive his head into the boards at a bad angle) is almost always suspendable, and even the classic hip-check is now a crap shoot, since the guy getting it might land on his head.

Sure, it's fun to watch our collective unrepressed id marching down the field, but it doesn't have to cause brain damage. Unless it's an inextricable part of line play, in which case I'd rather not think about it.

by White Rose Duelist :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 9:58am

The NHL just suspended Alex Ovechkin for a hit on a Penguins roleplayer. Think the NFL would do the same if Aaron Rodgers made a dirty hit?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 2:30am

The NFL would absolutely suspend Alex Ovechkin if Aaron Rodgers made a dirty hit.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:13am

and yet for the most part, the suspensions are a fraction of the time that the injured players miss. (Crosby is an excellent example of this.) Even repeat offenders rarely get more than 3 or 5 games.

It's only been this season when the NHL has been grudgingly forced to accept that hits to the head are simply not good things in any situation, and even at that, only intentional blows are penalized. (Contrast that with penalties for sticks to the face, where similar danger of injury exists and intent does not matter.) Of course, fighting is a separate issue entirely.

The NHL deserves credit for the progress they've made, but they have much, much farther to go. We are not that far removed from the era in which Brian Burke was dispensing "punishment" on behalf of the league, and the main problem, that there are players in the league who have no interest in playing by the rules and that their cheap shots are frequently missed and never penalized harshly enough to change their behavior, that problem is still around. (Perhaps the "need" for fighting would drop significantly if the NHL and NHLPA worked together to get the bad apples out of the barrel.)

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:17pm

And that's exactly the problem. A 5-game NHL suspension is equivalent to a 1-game NFL suspension. Maybe having more ejections would be a reasonable solution--NFL players almost never get tossed, but it's pretty common in the NHL (especially with the Bruins. Or half-game suspensions in which a player sits the first half and forfeits half of his paycheck.

Or just make 'em play short-handed.

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:27pm

A version of football with a penalty box would be interesting. I think I'd base it on number of plays rather than time.

by Nathan :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 1:56pm

Being forced to play short handed would be much more of a penalty than losing even your best player for the game and still being allowed to play 5 on 5. But I suppose that's what you intended.

Anyway, that's essentially what soccer does.

by Hellrayser (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2012 - 6:40am

And rugby, too. I agree that ejection or a penalty box would seriously cut down on hits that violate the rules.

The refs in rugby have a lot more power, though, which creates other problems. Still, better to have those problems than a bunch of traumatic brain injury cases running around.

by Viliphied (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 6:35pm

I've always been a proponent of this rule (which I have never seen before, which I find odd): If you injure a player on an illegal hit, you are ejected from the game, and suspended for the time that player sits to injury plus 1 game (football), 5 games (basketball and hockey) or 10 games (baseball)

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 6:44pm

The usual objection is that if said illegal hit was committed by a star player against a backup, the victim's team could then sit said backup for the rest of the year and deny their rival a star. This is particularly unfortunate when you consider how easy it is to draw a personal foul in the modern NFL. It would probably lead to a greater level of undesirable gamesmanship. There may be way to avoid the gamesmanship aspect, but it's more complex than simply making James Harrison take time off every time he hits somebody.

by Viliphied (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 7:07pm

To which I say: Tough shit. Don't want to sit? Don't commit an illegal hit. (All such suspensions would, of course, be reviewed to make sure the hit was actually illegal, and not just overacting by the injured player)

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:13pm

I know you would. A lot of people would. More people wouldn't, especially with how easy it is to pick up a personal foul in the current NFL.

Consider the possibility of, say, the Eagles' fourth string running back getting hurt on a fractionally late hit out of bounds - which is a personal foul - ruling DeMarcus Ware out for the season. That's why rules like this aren't implemented.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 7:34pm

I still like the idea of treating personal fouls like yellow cards in soccer. Once you get two, it's an automatic one-game suspension.

by Dales :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 8:17pm

Love it in theory. But hate it when I think about the personal fouls, like the helmet-to-head hit one that happened in a recent Giants' game which involved neither player's helmet nor head.

Get one of those during a playoff run, and if you had one before... oops; and if you have to play on eggshells after that to avoid risking a game suspension, and it hurts your play... oops.

If they rolled back a lot of the recent player safety-rules-gone-amuck, then maybe.

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 8:31pm

Firstly, enforce all h2h hits, and if an offensive player initiates it, penalize and fine him.

Secondly, all video review after the fact to verify that a personal foul should have been called.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 8:41pm

In the World Cup, for example, they get a clean slate when the knockout round starts. No reason not to so the same for the playoffs.

A substantial portion of the population enjoys arguing about bad officiating and its consequences. They'll love this.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:36pm

No one could have expected Cindy Crosby to have such a glass jaw. And considering how protected he's been by the league for his entire career, it's shocking he was the recipient of a major hit at all.

Claude Gireau got taken out by friendly fire, though, so removing head injuries from hockey entirely is probably a laughable hope.

by Jerry :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 4:28am

This level of discourse is as unacceptable when discussing hockey as it is when discussing football. Leave it to the yahoo (capitalized or not) boards.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 1:08pm

The point is that outcome-related penalties are a bad idea, and I can only think of one in organized sports (bleeding turns a high-sticking call in hockey into a double-minor), because there is no way for an opponent to accurately gauge another player's durability.

A hit that might provoke a fight from Gordie Howe might knock Wayne Gretzky on his ass and might concuss Eric Lindros. But there's no reasonable way to know beforehand which it's going to be.

by Jerry :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 7:50pm

I lost your (well-taken) point in the first paragraph on your original post, which read like part of a "[Your favorite team] suxx0r." "No, [your favorite team] Suxx0r." exchange.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:34pm

You can take the professional out of it.

That attitude was famously documented in early 1910s amateur football, was old then, and has likely existed in every contact sport going back to Greece. Football was lauded by faculty in the south because it got the students to stop dueling.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 5:50pm

Speaking only of Ravens / Steelers games, there are many times when a player makes a comment about headhunting before or after a game in which the head-hunted individual gets injured, and the league response has been either silence or a quiet fine.

by Kurt :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:25am

The headline looked bad.

Then, I read the article, and am still wondering what, exactly, they *did*. They're allowed to tackle the guy with the ball, even hard.

You hope something could be done? I have an idea. The guy with the concussions stays off the field.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 2:01am

I fail to see how maiming someone with a limp for life is better than cursing them with headaches (or depression) or whatever for the rest of their life. It is all a matter of degrees.

Concussions are bad, but they aren't some completely new class of thing, the professional athlete being a broken husk of his former self riddled with pain in regret has been a trope for a lot longer than people cared about concussions.

by artmaccuinn (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 9:05am

not saying a limp or not being able to lift your arms above your shoulders or chronic pain from old injuries or any of the other myriad of physical things retired football (+ other contact sport) players deal with aren’t serious but permanent brain damage is really another order of magnitude. unless you’re talking about an physical injury resulting in paralysis it doesn’t really compare. early onset dementia (or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s) y’know, kills people or severely curtails their quality of life. clinical depression ain’t nothing to sneeze at either; Boogaard, Rypien, Belak, Dave Duerson, Chris Benoit. I’m sure there were other contributing factors in all their cases but it seems pretty clear CTE had at least something to do with it.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:10pm

I fail to see how maiming someone with a limp for life is better than cursing them with headaches (or depression) or whatever for the rest of their life.


I'm a bit fonder of my brain than that. Brain injuries are the last thing I would want to contemplate. I'd gladly suffer a crippled limb long before accepting a lifetime of migraines, sleeping problems, and the other side effects of neurological damage.

by Mello :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 7:18am

It's exactly like knowing they have a gimpy ankle. Players should fully know the risks they take when they step on the field. If they are more concerned about their long term future, they should take up another career. People all across the country and world make significant concessions in their life for their career.

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:26pm

Agreed. And while it's part of the game, you have to wonder how many readers would actually engage in behavior like that to advance their careers. I'd hope not that many.

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

by Dales :: Mon, 01/23/2012 - 11:32pm

By the way-- horrible headline (and I know it is the headline at the other site).

How about, "Did the Giants Try to Strategically Concuss Kyle Williams", or

"Did the Giants Get Coached Strategically to Try and Concuss Kyle Williams"

Because seeing as that he did not get a concussion, the headline as written deserves an obvious "no" response.

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 3:30am

"Was Giants Strategy to Concuss Kyle Williams"

Of course, questions as headlines suck anyways.

by Jonadan :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:08am

See, here's the thing.

I would have said Williams barely got touched yesterday, relatively speaking. I wasn't paying attention to him that much, but compared to the sheer nastiness of the Pats-Ravens game, the NFC Championship, while plenty physical, seemed somewhat gentlemanly. Or maybe it was just that both teams were more competent overall so it just looked better.

On the other hand, if they did go after Williams specifically, it's a dick move.

On the other other hand, Williams was out there playing and (especially) returning punts, and if he was showing concussion-like symptoms and it did make a difference, not pulling him is on Harbaugh (would playing a backup backup PR make that much difference?)

To me this seems like two guys trying to make themselves seem like smart bad dudes after the fact – I seriously doubt it actually was a plan per se.

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

by GrandVezir :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 8:50am

would playing a backup backup PR make that much difference?

Yes: Inanimate Carbon Rod wouldn't have kneed the one punt and fumbled the other.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:11pm

Yeah, but he would have celebrated on the camera platform after the play, causing a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 9:06am

What's being missed is the obvious. That players understand that once a guy has a history of concussions the AFFECTS of another hard hit can generate something akin to a concussion without generating that type of diagnosis on the sideline. So you hit this guy and then he's a tad less aware, a tad less coordinate, he's just OFF.

Doesn't that describe Williams? The guy played semi-confused most of the game. Signals were there.

This is NOT a criticism of the Giants players. It's an indictment of the 49ers for not paying attention. You have a guy with this history, he's making odd plays, you sit him down and give him the once over.

And it's a LOT easier to tell folks after the game you benched a guy because he had symptoms of a concussion than you benched him because he s*cked. So everybody 'wins'.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 10:20am

As much as I dislike the idea of targeting an injured player, the thing about concussions is that if a guy with aftereffects or with a history of concussions is playing, you really can't avoid targeting the injury ... because any hard hit, anywhere, could trigger another, and there's no way to treat someone other than a pocket QB like that.

So yeah, I think that's more on the 49ers, in a sense, because they're the ones signing off on Williams as able to play. Now if the Giants said that they were intending to hit him illegally to trigger another concussion (like hitting hit after a fair catch or targeting his head), then yeah, that's not cool.

by RickD :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:16pm

You know, I hate to be a spelling Nazi, but if you're going to put a word in ALLCAPS, I think you're fair game.

"Effects", not "affects". Unless we're talking about psychology, "affect" isn't a noun.

(The flip side is that "effect" should almost never be used as a verb. By which I mean that at least half the time I see it used as a verb, the person means "affect", not "effect".)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:40pm

I effected a change in his flat affect.

Ain't English a grand language?

by nat :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 3:58pm

You have achieved an affected effect.

Yup. Gotta luv that English.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 4:41pm

I saw my typo after the fact and am not familiar on how the edit.

So snark away.

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 4:41pm

You have to have an account to edit.

by markus (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 8:03pm

Which bring precious few advantages, which is why most people never bother registering. Maybe some of that will eventually change after they get their new IT person. This site is about a decade behind the curve on every usability and tech front imaginable. But just my pet peeve...

by tuluse :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 8:48pm

You don't have to go through captcha. That seems like a pretty huge advantage to me.

by markus (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2012 - 4:57pm

If you make lots of posts. But for the occasional post the captcha phrase takes about as long as logging in would.

by tuluse :: Thu, 01/26/2012 - 7:34pm

I log in like once a month when the cookies expire.

I post a lot more often than once a month.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Thu, 01/26/2012 - 9:49pm

Wow, they really don't have cookies set to expire any more often than that?

by tuluse :: Thu, 01/26/2012 - 10:32pm

It's pretty infrequently. Why would I want to log in more often?

by Noah Arkadia :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:24pm

One positive for Williams is that he may not even remember the game

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 5:53pm

Doesn't that describe Williams? The guy played semi-confused most of the game. Signals were there.

As a White Sox fan, I think the fact that Kyle Williams is the son of Kenny Williams is enough to explain his confusion.

by Aaron (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:45pm

Two comments here:

Trying to cause permanent changes in mental status is fundamentally targeting a person's identity; when you mess up someone's mind, you take away who they are. Blowing out an ankle or knee does not do that. To target someone's fundamental character shows a disregard for humanity, as does pretending you did so; if you do that you're not fit to be part of society. If you don't value what makes your peers who they are, you don't deserve to participate in our collective life.

Requiring tacklers to attempt a wrap would make better and less injurious football. There are still lots of concussions in rugby, but since NFL helmets are better designed to prevent them (though the most popular models need improvement, the league has decided not to set standards, which they should do), I think that would go a long way in reducing concussions. And I think that would vastly shorten the rule book, making it easier for players to follow it, and it would make a big reduction in missed tackles as well.

by Anon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 1:00pm

Ehm... no. There would be VASTLY more missed tackles. The most common formed of broken tackle is when a defender tries to arm-tackle an offensive player coming with a lot of momentum. Just watch a couple of rugby matches. The way they tackle is similar to football's right now: hit HARD with your shoulders AND THEN wrap them up. You have the Six Nations coming up in February.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 6:49pm

I think you are drawing lines there that don't actually exist. Before my grandfather had both his hips and shoulders (worked in mines out of high school then, played D1 football and hockey, then went to Korea) replaced he was crippled with pain. It completely clouded his mind. After he had the surgeries he was a new man mentally at age 72. He went back to how he was at 60 overnight (well after a few years of surgery).

I am not sayign the brain isn't important, obviously it is, but it shouldn't be treated as some injury that is of a completely different kind. For a lot of people an occasional headache is much better than a daily limp (not everyone who has multiple concussions gets permanent personality damage).

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 6:50pm

You can't have surgery to repair dementia.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 6:04pm

Because everyone who plays football gets dementia? Even everyone who gets concussions? Most everyone I know played youth hockey and got concussions repeatedly. 1 person, 1! has ongoing issues.

I had had 3 concussions by age 16.

by BroncosGuyAgain :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 10:47pm

Ah. At last, I understand.

Thank you for your candidness, Joshua. I wish you good health and happiness.

by thendcomes :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:53pm

The sensationalized headline makes this sound worse than it is. All players on both teams are trying to take the opponent out. This is a non-story.

by Anon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 12:57pm

Hey, they didn't try to concuss him, they tried to hit him hard. His status as "already concussed" served them right: any big hit that makes his head bounce (and this could be any hit, even your sacrosanct "graple and tackle" variety) would potentially make him dizzy.

I think that if there's somebody to blame here for this kid's problems, it's his coaches. He has four concussions already? And you give him extra duties as a returner, one of the positions in which you are most exposed to big hits? Seriously? I would have put literally anybody and ask him to fair catch all the time if they have no real returner other than Ginn Jr, field position be damned. If the second stringer has a history of concussions, will get dizzy with any strong hit, I won't put him in a position in which he can turn the ball over...

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/24/2012 - 8:44pm

Why were the 49'ers suiting up a concussed player?

by Paul R :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 2:23am

This. Very much.
Where was the staff? The Giants obviously knew Williams had a history of injury,, the 49ers didn't?
If Williams had a bad knee, and the Giants were hitting him as hard as possible because of it, and Williams playing ability was suffering, they would have had him on the bench in no time.
What were they saying over there? "Heck, it's just his brain, he'll be fine. Hey Williams, what day is it? There, see? He knows it's Sunday. No problem. Get out there, Williams!"

by Eddo :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 11:19am

I don't get this; are you saying that once a player has suffered a concussion, he should be forced to retire?

My understanding is that Williams has had concussions in the more-distant past, not in the previous week or two.

by Paul R :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 1:14pm

No. What I meant to say is a brain injury, like any other injury, has symptoms that a trainer needs to watch for. Especially with an athlete who has suffered the injury in the past.
If you have a player who: a) Has had concussions in the past, b) Gets walloped a few times during the game, and c) Begins to display some symptoms, like difficulty with decision-making and physical coordination, you had better put him on the bench and take a good look at him.
You have to recognize the symptoms. Brain-injury symptoms are different than other body-part-injury symptoms, but there are symptoms, and a good trainer had better recognize them.
I can't watch a quarterback throw a pass and instantly diagnose whether he's having a problem in his ribs, shoulder, elbow, or hand, but a professional can. He should be just as knowledgeable about the brain.
I wouldn't be surprised if, in this era of concussion-awareness, a lot of trainers and coaches are going back to school. Hope so. It's likely that we've just seen evidence that ignorance about brain injury symptoms can cost you a playoff game.

by Mike_in_Jersey (not verified) :: Wed, 01/25/2012 - 12:47pm

First, no where in the article does it say the Giants went after his head. I imagine a guy with 4 concussions would be more vulnerable to another concussion from a legal hit, where his head hits the ground for example. This speaks more to the NFL rules, and the 49ers willingness to let a guy with that medical condition play. As a Giants fan, I'm not happy with the quotes, but what were they supposed to do? Hit him less hard?

Also, the whole "wrapup" thing is a nonstarter. Part of the reason is the way the offense and defense line up for every play, which has no analogy in rugby. On running plays especially ballcarrier and tackler are running right at each other. You would have the tackler essentially let the ballcarrier go by him before he attempted the tackle.

And the whole 9 on 9 frat guy thing is hilarious. For one, 9 frat guys usually don't play with yard markers, don't run the ball very much, and aren't wagering millions of dollars in salary and endorsements on the game.

by Spud (not verified) :: Fri, 01/27/2012 - 2:29pm

As a Giants fan I must say I've very pleased that they didn't manage to knock Williams out of the game.

by C Hubes (not verified) :: Sat, 01/28/2012 - 11:54pm

Who cares, Kyle Williams had it coming to him. You don't run at a punt after you decided to let it hit the turf AND you don't fumble that close to your goal line in OT especially in a playoff game. If Ted Ginn was playing, 49ers come out on top.