The NFL Was Right to Suspend Ed Reed
Reed has made a hall of fame career out of being a hard nosed safety who can time his hit perfectly to separate a would be receiver from the ball.
What the league did on Monday, and has consistently done for more than a few years now, is send a clear message that the game will change. And that the way Ed Reed plays the game is going to be a thing of the past whether he, or anyone else, likes it or not. Players like Reed will have to learn that they will no longer be allowed to attempt to jar the ball loose like they have in the past. The play that we will all see on a loop when this suspension is being discussed, the hit on Sunday night against Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders, is a perfect example of a hit that the league is going to eradicate from the game, by all means necessary.
The NFL is saying that from now on they expect defenders to concede a catch in that situation and simply make the tackle. If you can’t get there in time to make a play on the ball itself, you just simply aren’t going to be allowed to make a play on the man anymore.
It’s not like we haven’t seen changes like this in the game before. There once was a time when the league allowed another hall of fame player, Carl Eller, to routinely use a move called “The Head Slap”.
Now, for our younger readers, this was a move where Eller, a tremendous player, would club the offensive lineman in the side of the head in order to make him disoriented for a split second so that he could get to the quarterback.
Could you even imagine this sort of thing being allowed today? It’s laughable, right?
Well, this is how future football fans are going to look back at a time when world class athletes like Ed Reed were allowed to run full speed and launch themselves at the heads of receivers so that they would drop the ball.
Football is a violent game for sure, but it has been systematically getting less and less violent as time goes by. The game that previous generations watched looks very little like the one we enjoy today, and that is just fine.
One of the reasons I fell in love with football as a young boy was because it was a game that you could tell was in the process of figuring itself out.
Other sports are more fully evolved. Baseball is the most obvious, all teams use basically the same types of players in the same positions on the field and employ close to the same strategy, and have been doing so for decades now. The winner and the loser in a baseball game comes down to execution, and they all eventually begin to look alike.
But not football. We haven’t even been able to all agree on which positions should be on the field to give your team the best chance to win. Some teams go with four and five receivers and a pass happy offense, while others swear by multiple tight ends and power running. And just think about how many different schemes get used on defense.
Imagine if next year the Red Sox just decided they were going to play with two shortstops instead of one. That would be crazy right? No one would do that because it’s been clearly shown that one is better than two.
And that is what makes football so great, that we are seeing right in front of our own eyes great football minds experiment and determine just what type of football produces the best results.
Just as the changes in the way that coaches design their plays constantly makes players adjust the way they play, the league has been changing the way players behave on the field through rule changes for a very long time now.
Sometimes this means that veteran players, the very ones we have all learned to define the game through, have a hard time adjusting to the new style of play.
It may be too late for someone like Ed Reed to change the way he plays the game, because he is only doing what he has taught his body to do over years and years of training, but the league is going to make certain that in the end they get rid of the vicious hits that endanger the health and safety of the players.
Now, no one should be questioning the intent of the integrity of a player like Reed, just as no one should have questioned the integrity of a man like Carl Eller in his playing days, but the types of hits that players like Reed are capable of laying on receivers are so devastating that they just cannot be allowed to continue.
Sure, a version of football where defensive backs are going to have to concede catches in these situations will look very different from the football many of us grew up with.
But we’ve seen the league go through changes like this before, and in the end these changes have given us the game that we all love. And, most importantly, the league has a responsibility to protect the players we love to watch from the devastating long term effects of multiple concussions.