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Will Rob Gronkowski's injury change the rules? NFL Unfiltered Week 14

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Pro football is evolving.  

Undersized quarterback Russell Wilson is essentially street-balling his way to a probable NFL title.  Three of the four best teams in the NFC have young, developing quarterbacks. And due to the league’s quest to avoid more lawsuits, receivers risk serious knee damage on every pass play.

When Houston Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger cut down and cut short Dustin Keller’s season in August, it brought to light a new reality.   

Keller sustained a torn ACL, effectively ending his season. The hit, while clean and completely legal, led to a national discussion on strike zones and whether it is ethical to drive a helmet into the knees of a defenseless receiver.   Gronkowski photo: Getty/AFP/File, Jim Rogash

However, Keller isn’t a star and the Dolphins are merely respectable. They aren’t the type of team that evoke emotions in a nation of rabid football fans.  

Conversely, the New England Patriots matter, and now that they must try to win a championship without all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, the issue is bound to lead to another rule change.

Fans and players are upset by what they believe are unnecessary tackles. “Something has to be done about these low hits!” said Keller via his Twitter account. But what is the alternative?

Tom Brady’s knee injury in 2008 ushered in a new era of offensive football, but it isn’t necessarily the best football.  

There is no way to remove the violence from arguably the most violent game there is- especially when you consider its violence is a large part of its lure.  But there are rumblings the competition committee is going to try.  

The options for would-be tacklers are already limited and seem to shrink each season. What’s next, two-hand touch?  Maybe offensive players ought to avoid low hits by simply catching a pass and falling to the ground.  

Receivers cannot have it both ways. They can’t demand protection from the league’s rule makers, when they don’t always do what it takes to protect themselves. Perhaps players and teams ought to make the business decision to trade yards after the catch for games played.  Do you think the Patriots would rather have a healthy Gronkowski, or the extra yards he gained after he caught that pass?

If you’ve seen recent interviews with Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett, you know the NFL must never go back to the days when helmet-to-helmet hits were routine.  

Consequently, we should all expect to see more knee injuries like Gronkowski’s. Not because defensive backs are dirty players, but because they have no other recourse.  

In my view, additional legislation against low tackles makes NFL football less enjoyable.  Tackling, even the kind that legally destroys knee ligaments, is still an integral part of the game.  Without it, the game takes another step closer to the Pro Bowl.

Maybe those who follow the NFL for statistical reasons have no use for tackling and couldn’t care less about the defense’s difficulties. They like watching quarterbacks routinely throw for 5,000 yards because it helps them win fantasy league titles.  

Still, pro football isn’t for the meek.  It is violent and sometimes ugly and the physical impact on the men who play it is immeasurable.  And there isn’t much more the league can do about it.  

If defensive backs are prohibited from intimidating receivers in some way, the NFL becomes a glorified exhibition.    

And that’s not enough for real football fans.  


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THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Week 14 

-The Detroit Lions are like are a boxer with big hands and a glass chin. They can catch you with a haymaker but the longer the fight goes, the more likely they’ll get knocked out, or quit.  

-The Lions ought to trade defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  He isn’t all that effective and still has knucklehead tendencies.

-There is wonderful irony in Steelers’ receiver Antonio Brown stepping out of bounds on the way to one of the most improbable comebacks in NFL history.  LeSean McCoy photo: businessinsider.com

-Young NFL quarterbacks need more help to succeed than veterans.  It’s amazing how poorly some quarterbacks are supported.

-The formula for beating the Seahawks is clear: play excellent defense, run the football and get smart, composed play from your quarterback. There isn’t a team in the NFC who fits that description. 

-Colin Kaepernick often looks tentative and mechanical because he is learning complex defensive schemes every week.  Gurus like Trent Dilfer use offensive and borderline racist terms like “remedial” to shock us, but Jim Harbaugh deserves the benefit of the doubt for his success in developing quarterbacks.

-Russell Wilson and the EaglesLeSean McCoy are both more valuable to their respective teams than Peyton Manning is to Denver.  

-It seems teams still play Wilson honestly.  It is as if they don’t really believe he poses a legitimate threat.

-Josh McCown isn’t the long-term solution for the Bears, but his play means Jay Cutler isn’t either. 


 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area. He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

 

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com  and follow him on Twitter @EMyersIII

 

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Rob Gronkowski photo: Getty/AFP/File, Jim Rogash

 

LeSean McCoy photo: businessinsider.com