Monday Night Football Recap- Brutal hits and the Implications on the NFL

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This Monday, the Steelers and the Bengals faced off in a AFC North Division rivalry matchup, in a game that featured some brutal hits, resulting in some brutal injuries, and more people bringing up the discussion on the safety issues in football and how the NFL should deal with these hits.

To recap some of the hits that happened Monday night:

  • In the scariest injury of the night, Ryan Shazier had a seemingly harmless hit on a Bengals receiver, but immediately after Shazier reached for his back, rolled over, and noticeably couldn’t move his legs. Shazier was then carted off the field, and it has now been reported that Shazier moved some of his lower extremities in the hospital, but his status of playing football ever again is highly in question. Just a scary play that you hate to see in football. Watch the play here
  • After that, Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith Schuster delivered a crushing block on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Smith Schuster didn’t lead with his helmet but delivered the blow to Burfict’s head/neck area when he wasn’t looking. Burfict was carted off the field after, and Schuster now has received a one game suspension for the hit. Watch the play here
  • The worst of the night, in my opinion, was Bengals safety George Iloka’s hit on Antonio Brown. Brown made a catch in the end-zone, and Iloka launched himself at Brown while Brown was defenseless and also leading with his helmet. Brown somehow held on to the ball for the touchdown, and stayed in the game. Watch the play here

Now, when plays like these happen, the discussion on the safety issues in the NFL spark up again, and the crowd that believes football will eventually be terminated shines light on games like these as evidence for their claim.

First, these two teams do not like each other. They are fierce division rivals and violent hits like these seem to happen far more often when the Bengals and Steelers meet up. There’s also a lot of bad history between the two teams and their players:  for example two years ago in a playoff game Burfict hit Antonio Brown running across the middle in a brutal head to head injury that would result in a concussion for Brown. Burfict after the game said that he thought Brown was faking the injury, even though Brown missed the playoff game the next week. This lead to Brown shouting, “KARMA” LAST NIGHT, when Smith Schuster was being asked about the hit in the post-game interview. I saw why Brown said that, but this was a lot different and very insensitive due to the plays that happened in that game previously.

I also think it is tough to judge the intent from these players with these hits, and to assume based on past occurrences isn’t fair to the game and the players. The game moves fast, the players make plays and decisions based off instincts, and the only thing the NFL can do is try to correct the form and how these plays are being made.

Secondly, football is a violent, fast moving sport. Everyone knows that, and the league has only increasingly gotten better at protecting these players with penalties and fines that help enforce the rule changes they are trying to make. The technology has also gotten better as helmets are getting more and more protective over the years, and the NFL is going to continue to try to protect their players as much as they can. To this point as more and more studies are being released about concussions, players know what they are getting into: they are playing a fast moving, violent sport that contains some of the strongest most powerful athletes in the world moving at a hundred miles an hour. Injuries are going to happen, brutal hits are going to happen, but it’s simply what these players sign up for.

As for the suspensions that were given out after this game, I believe the league was correct on the Smith-Schuster hit, one game in my eyes is enough. The Iloka hit is something that needs to be taken more serious because he launched himself leading with his head. I think that needs to be a three or four game suspension for the Bengals safety and that is the type of hit the NFL needs to completely eliminate from the sport.

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