DAVIE—It’d be great if there was a safe way to play football, but that doesn’t seem possible. For every bone-cracking hit that becomes a viral video, there are 10 others that hurt almost as much.
However, Broncos star Von Miller envisions a more civil NFL. He said this week he’d like to see players “take care of each other” by avoiding unnecessarily dangerous plays. He compared it to how NBA players are conscious of not taking someone out when they go to the rim.
“You know, guys can go up for a huge dunk, and you see a guy coming in and trying to defend the shot or the dunk, and he eases up a little bit,” Miller told Sports Illustrated. “He takes care of his opponent.”
The question is whether that’s even possible in a sport that’s naturally violent.
“There are instances where you can stop and make a textbook tackle as opposed to going and killing somebody, but there’s other instances where it’s bang-bang and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Dolphins linebacker Mike Hull said. “There are times you can hold back as a player, but there are times where it just happens.”
One potential example of the type of contact that’s unavoidable is what happened to Ryan Tannehill last weekend. The hit that sprained his knee and might cost him his season came on a play in which Arizona’s Calais Campbell lunged at him and appeared to be pushed in the back by left tackle Branden Albert.
While none of the Dolphins players in this entry commented specifically about that play, it fits the criteria.
“The league tries to reduce that in football, but it’s a physical game,” offensive tackle Sam Young said. “There’s always gonna be something. Ideally you don’t have the cheap hits, but I don’t know how you can ever fully take that out of the game.
“You never know what a guy’s intentions are. Sometimes it’s more obvious than others. Sometimes you get pushed into somebody. Again, your job is to be out there tackling guys, so there’s a certain element that’s always going to be there. But that’s why the NFL has these unsportsmanlike penalties and fines. It’s to influence guys to make the right decisions or maybe think twice about a cheap shot.”
There are some reasonable measures players, especially defenders, can take. Cornerback Byron Maxwell said he’s seen defensive backs take fewer damaging shots at vulnerable receivers and it’s something that’s always in his mind.
“As a corner, sometimes a guy is coming and you’ve got that angle to go blow him up, but you can do it with your shoulder and don’t go at his head or his knees,” he said. “You can definitely do some things to make it safer.”
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