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Let’s Be Real: Helmet Hits Are Intentional

I just read Green Bay Packers’ president Mark Murphy’s comments about a new rule on helmet hits. Murphy, a true NFL establishment figure after being the chief exec of the team for 11 years, was true to form.

Murphy believes the key is “to educate our players, coaches and officials about the rule.” He says the new rule “penalizes a tactic and provides much broader protection for players.”

Where to start? Murphy got one thing right: helmet hits are tactical, which means they are purposeful, intentional acts. Education is not the cure and it won’t afford more protection to players.

The new rule prohibits lowering the head to initiate contact. But Murphy acknowledged that we already have rules against ramming, butting and spearing – though he admits they are “seldom called.”

Enforcement, then, has to be part of the cure. Since referees haven’t been enforcing the existing rules for years, why would we think they’ll enforce the new rule without additional prodding?

Here’s what’s needed to prompt enforcement: any referee in position to make such a call, but doesn’t, on later review by the league needs to be suspended for the next game and not be paid for that week.

Next, the current 15-yard penalty (and the rare ejection) hasn’t stopped such acts. For the small but significant number of players inclined to commit such violence, there needs to be ample punishment that acts as a strong deterrent.

A player charged by the ref with a helmet hit should be ejected and suspended for the following game, and should provide a week’s pay to a medical fund for victims of such tactics. Further, if the refs fail to call a helmet hit and the league later reviews the tape and determines such an infraction occurred, it should then hand out the suspension and monetary penalty.

Without meaningful behavior-altering punishment, we aren’t going to see a significant lessening of severe concussion, head, neck or spinal injuries that the league claims it wants so badly to reduce.

Does anyone doubt that the above measures would all but eliminate such intentional hits? There’s an easy and certain way to find out.

Instead of taking half measures, and enacting ineffective rules for the sake of appearances, let’s try something more dramatic, give it a year or two, and then examine the results. First, let’s prove that such behavior can in fact be all but eliminated. Once that’s established, some fine tuning can then be done if the rule is deemed to be having any significant negative effects on the game.

Monty McMahon

Monty McMahon is one of the founders of Total Packers. He is probably the most famous graduate of UW-Oshkosh next to Jim Gantner.



  1. PF4L April 9, 2018

    When you examine this whole issue in it’s entirety, it’s a joke, a sad joke.

    The league doesn’t want these hits but it makes for good tv, so they try enacting consequences but they have no teeth.

    The players don’t want their careers shortened, they know the damage that can be done, including the loss of careers. But it’s the players doing it to themselves. There should be some level of self policing among players for those who jeopardize other players careers. Yes, i’m insinuating players justice and all that may entail to correct someones thinking process.

    The NFLPA decries the violent nature of the NFL and blames the injuries on the league, instead of looking at their own players. But when a player is then punished for excessive violence on the field, that Union will then hire attorneys to defend each player to reduce or eliminate punishment. So they decry the violent nature of the sport, but when their own players break the rules and jeopardize other players careers, they will back that player. Nothing hypocritical about that.

    Monty made excellent points, but the penalties have to be stiff, and if the refs don’t call them, they should be suspended, more than just one game. Plus, someone (maybe replay officials in New York) has to step in on replay and call the penalty if the ref didn’t, and automatically eject that player…immediately, not just offer lip service.

    So i guess what i’m saying, is the problem will be addressed correctly, when the Union, the players, and/or the League decides they want to take this seriously and provide harsh penalties, not lip service.

    1. Cheese April 9, 2018

      Agreed. “Accountability,” lip service, hypocrisy, and a big joke.

      Thomas Davis gets suspended four games for testing positive for “PEDS” and he says it was only over the counter supplements like pre work out or creatine. Who knows, who cares. But last year he blatantly takes out Davante with a blindsided helmet to helmet hit and only gets a one game suspension? So taking creatine is four times more offensive than headhunting and giving someone a concussion? Please preach to me some more about players safety Mr.Goodell.

    2. Keith April 10, 2018

      It seems to me that many defenders resort to these types of hits as the result of poor tackling ability or the unwillingness to wrap up and take the ball carrier down the normal way. This frustrates me. I just hate it when defenders try to shove ball carriers out of bounds, allowing 2-3 extra yards as a result. Last year the Packer defense only had about three guys who I thought were tackling consistently well. I hope and pray that Mike Pettine can change the attitude of this defense, and bring back the most fundamental defensive technique — good old-fashioned tackling.

  2. cz April 9, 2018

    After seeing too many teams “headhunt” to gain advantage in a game, the only fair way to equal the games for the teams not playing dirty is to immediately eject a player who knocks an opponent out.


    If in say a playoff game, if one team uses a non-star to take out the other team’s star, then the team which is the victim should get their choice of who on the opposite roster gets removed.