THE OPTION | Helmet-to-Helmet

Matt Clibanoff 12/18/17

This is the second time this season he's been knocked out of a game because of an illegal hit.

This past Sunday marks the second time this season that Davante Adams was on the wrong side of a blindside, helmet-to-helmet collision. This time, following a turnover, Thomas Davis' leveled a block on Adams that sent him to the sideline with a concussion.

Here is the hit:

Earlier this year, Adams also took a hit from Danny Trevathan that left him unconscious and writhing on the field:

Big hits in the NFL always garner media attention. Old-school aficionados usually say some iteration of "let them play", whereas younger fans and pundits tend to err on the side of caution, citing concussion research and vocally supporting the implementation of new safety rules. Some hits, like Anthony Barr's on Aaron Rogers, exist in a sort of gray area. Sure, Barr may have hit Rodgers a half second too late, but if Rodgers didn't fall awkwardly and break his collar bone, the point would be moot. Other hits, such as the ones Davante Adams has been injured on, are more black and white. Helmet-to-helmet collisions with defenseless receivers are illegal. It says so right in the NFL rulebook. That said, the league is still having problems preventing this kind of hit. Rookie, JuJu Smith-Schuster was suspended one game this year for his blindside block on Vontaze Burfict. Last night, when his teammate Martavis Bryant scored, the two Steelers reenacted Smith-Schuster's illegal move, taunting not only Burfict, but the NFL in the process. Burfict has been out with a concussion since. Unfortunately, Burfict himself isn't a paragon of virtue when it comes to the NFL rulebook. The man is an artist when it comes to illegal hits. Some havegone as far as calling him the NFL's dirtiest player.

Before the start of the 2017 season, the NFL added new rules hoping to slow the trend of helmet-to-helmet collisions. Players who perform 'egregious' hits to an opposing players' head or neck area are subject to ejection from games. In this regard, the NFL has the right idea. Stricter rules regarding player safety need to be put in place, but rule changes don't amount to much if they aren't enforced. Danny Trevathan was suspended for two games for his hit on Davante Adams earlier this season, but while the refs were quick to call it unnecessary roughness on the field, Trevathan wasn't ejected from the game. His suspension came later in the week. Thomas Davis was also allowed to finish playing against the Packers this weekend, although many predict he will be suspended later this week. Aaron Rodger even came out against Davis, calling him a repeat offender.

Even with this new rule in place, the league is pretty conservative when dealing out suspensions for dirty hits. On top of this, whenever they do condemn someone, that player is usually able to appeal and knock their sentence down. Danny Trevethan knocked his original two-game suspension down to one game. George Iloka got his one-game suspension for a huge hit on Antonio Brown in week 13 reduced to a $36,000 fine. And Vontaze Burfict, serial headhunter, had his five-game suspension from this August reduced to three games. The NFL is doing everything it can to appear committed to protecting its players. They've written new rules and every announcer is constantly talking about player safety, but when it comes to actually punishing the responsible parties, the NFL is silent.

From a strictly amoral, PR standpoint, one can almost understand why the league doesn't come down on players accused of off the field. From their point of view, it doesn't make sense to highlight criminal activity that their players are involved in. This would only serve to hurt the league's already sinking reputation. When it comes to players injuring other players, on live TV, in front of millions of viewers, the league can't use the same logic. Trying to use press conferences and other public relations tactics to mitigate black and white issues doesn't really work, especially when videos end up on Youtube and Twitter within minutes of the events occurring. Honestly, there isn't really much of a debate unless you're prepared to disregard player safety altogether. Once again however, the NFL has found a way to embroil itself in an easily preventable scandal. The issue of helmet-to-helmet collisions is a meatball right down the middle and the league is about to strike out looking because they're too scared to eject players from games. There're are only two possible explanations. 1. The NFL's leadership has forgotten how to think. 2. They never knew how to think in the first place.

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Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found in Inked Magazine, Pop Dust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. -- Find Matt at his website and on Twitter: @mattclibanoff

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