The biggest news in the NFL world this week is the NFL's decision to step up punishment for illegal helmet-to-helmet hits in the wake of a weekend that saw player after player carted off the field after ugly, high-speed hits made them see cartoon birds.
It might have been a bit of an overreaction to one particular weekend, but with the terrifying information that's been coming out about the long-term effects of concussions the NFL was probably just waiting for a reason to throw the suspension option on the table. The overreaction was even worse after they laid down the new law, however. From every corner of the country you had some voice railing against the way the NFL was trying to become flag football.
No one was more ridiculous than Steelers linebacker James Harrison. Harrison knocked two members of the Browns out of last Sunday's game with head injuries. One hit, on Josh Cribbs, was legal and one, on Mohamed Massaquoi, was illegal even though it wasn't flagged in the game. Harrison said he tries to hurt people, was fined $75,000 and then walked out of Steelers practice because he was, to quote numerous reporters, "contemplating retirement" because the league was changing the rules.
He wasn't contemplating anything. He was being melodramatic in an attempt to fuel the same nonsense reaction as the people who were screaming about flag football. The rules of the game didn't change one bit, the punishment for breaking them has changed. The same hits that were legal last week are legal this week and the ones that were illegal are still illegal. It's as if someone was complaining that the government was making murder illegal because there was now a death penalty instead of simply life in prison.
The Giants are making those complaints in droves. Deon Grant, Brandon Jacobs, Antrel Rolle and others have spent most of the week crying in their soup about how the evil NFL is robbing them of their livelihood. Listening to them makes you think the NFL had made it illegal to tackle another player. If the NFL was actually serious about changing the way the game was played, then they'd change the way the game was played. They didn't do that or even come close.
What they did was make a big deal about an issue that concerned a lot of people tangentially so that people would stop talking about the scourge of head injuries. A player or two will get suspended -- though it is notable that last weekend's most egregious offender, New England's Brandon Meriweather was simply fined -- and everyone will move onto the next story. This weekend's NFL games will look exactly like last week's NFL games and so on and so on.
The only surprise is that the Giants aren't one of the teams most strongly supporting the new enhanced punishments for hits to the head on defenseless receivers. When Kevin Boss picked up a concussion in Week One, there were plenty of Giants happy to call Panthers safety Sherrod Martin a dirty player for what was an illegal hit. Tom Coughlin fanned the flames by railing against a league that allowed Martin to play the next week while the Giants were forced to play without Martin.
Now? Coughlin sounds upset about having to deal with the issue instead of applauding the NFL for doing exactly what he said they should do last month. Guess it's different when you might actually be the team punished.