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NFL Owners Pass Helmet Rule

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RUSH: Boy, I'll tell you, this came out of nowhere.  The NFL owners have passed that helmet rule.  Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says the rule passed by a "wide margin."  Voters of the NFL voted just now to outlaw the use of the crown of the helmet by offensive or defensive players in the open field.  Eric Dickerson, Hall of Famer, one of the leading ground gainers in the NFL, was quoted.  He's in part of that massive player lawsuit against the NFL over concussions, but he said (paraphrasing), "This is nuts.  You can't make an inherently violent game safe."  He said this helmet law is crazy.  Emmitt Smith said it's crazy.  Emmitt Smith, Hall of Fame running back, Dallas Cowboys. 

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It's a natural thing.  If you've never played football, I'm telling you, if you've never played and you end up in a sandlot game of touch football and you happen to be running the ball, catch a pass and run or get a handoff and run, you run up to somebody and your natural instinct is to duck your head, you just do it.  Without being coached or trained, it's a natural reaction in that circumstance.  It's been outlawed.  Now it's gonna be at least a 15-yard penalty if it happens outside the tackle boxes.  And, of course, guess who's been all for this ever since it was proposed?  The media, the sportswriters, who've not played the game and who think it's a wonderful thing to try to make the game safer. It's a very, very compassionate thing to try to take the head out of all the violence in the game. 

If you want to protect the head, take away helmets, make 'em play without helmets and everything will be fine.  But I'm telling you, folks, the last report on this this morning was that this was so far from being reality. They're gonna table the helmet rule until the next round of owners meetings in May, and obviously that was a smoke screen 'cause it apparently passed by a wide margin just now.

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RUSH:  Cincinnati Bengals were the only team that voted against the helmet rule.  Snerdley just said, "Aw, come on, are they really gonna enforce this?"  Are they gonna enforce it?  It's a 15-yard penalty.  If you do it a second time, it's even worse.  Are they gonna enforce it?  Damn straight they're gonna enforce it.  You better have some tapes of NFL games the way they used to be played, folks.

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RUSH: The NFL helmet rule.  Let me tell you what I think is really going on here, and it's not a big surprise.  There's this giant lawsuit out there. Thousands of former players are suing the NFL, players who claim that they've got concussions, long-term damage, brain damage, memory loss, all that stuff.  There are thousands of them suing the NFL on the grounds that the NFL didn't tell them how dangerous the game was.  The NFL sent them back into games after they suffered concussions when they shouldn't have been sent back in and all that. 

So what's happened here?  The vote was 31 to one.  No longer can a running back lower his head running into a defender outside the tackle box.  On plunge plays, you know, off tackle, the gap between the guard and center, you can do it.  I don't know why, if it's not good outside, why is it okay inside?  I mean, that's my question.  "Well, Mr. Limbaugh, the reason is that outside the tackle box the players are in a wide open field and there's only one or two players left to tackle somebody, and the speeds, the speeds outside are just incredibly fast.  The game is not that fast inside the tackle box."  Well, it doesn't matter how fast it is.  The collision speed will take care of whatever lack of speed there is individually.  But if using the helmet is unhealthy and not good, why is it permitted inside the tackle box?  That's just me. 

But what's going on here is that fear of attorneys, fear of the plaintiff's bar is now running the NFL.  This rule is designed to protect the owners from lawyers, not designed to protect the players.  Now, they will say it's designed to protect the players, and they'll be applauded in certain sectors for trying to protect the players.  But what they're actually trying to do here is protect the owners from plaintiff's attorneys and lawsuits down the road.  And there will probably be -- what's next, knees?  You blow out your knee playing this game, and that can make you disabled for the rest of your life and maybe somebody's gonna allege, "Nobody told me I could blow out my knee playing this game." 

"You mean, you never saw that happen on TV?"

"No, I never knew it. My lawyer told me to tell you I never knew I could blow out my knee playing the game." 

So we'll have some rule on that. Everybody's gonna wear a knee brace or some such thing.  But once the game is starting to be run by fear of lawyers, it is going to change forever and inexorably. 

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RUSH: We go to Springfield, Missouri. It's Chris. Great to have you on the Rush Limbaugh program. Hi.

CALLER: Hey, Rush. How are you doing?

RUSH: Very good, sir. Thank you.

CALLER: Hey, you know, I was just driving along, and I heard you say that they were gonna do this you-can't-lower-your-helmet deal, and I was just thinking: Wouldn't it be awesome if, when they do the throwback uniforms, they take the face mask off or change the helmet on that? What do you think of that?

RUSH: Well, you know, Coach Ditka has said if you want to take the head out of the game, then take the face mask off of the helmet. No face masks allowed, and you'll take the head out of the game. If you really want to take the head out of the game, no helmet. You wouldn't have anybody leading with the head, then. You wouldn't have anything going on with the head or face without a face mask. You wouldn't have the head being used as a weapon on any play, if there were no face mask or no helmet.

So his idea is: When you go back to throwback uniforms, go throwback all the way. Go to a leather helmet with no face mask and see what happens. It would be an interesting illustration. Snerdley's looking at me like, "What are you talking about, no face masks?" I'm just telling you: Nobody is gonna purposely throw their head or face into a full-fledged contact situation with no protection. (interruption) That's the point: You wouldn't get hurt! There might be the incidental bloody nose, but nobody's gonna use their head on your head. That's not gonna happen, although a running back would still lower his head. I hate to tell you, but no matter what they're gonna do, a running back would instinctively do that. This is gonna be a really interesting rule for these guys to police. 

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RUSH: Jeff in Jackson, Michigan, we go back to the phones.  Great to have you on the program, sir.  Hi.

CALLER:  Oh, I hate to take you off your roll, Rush.  You're on a good roll there, and I just wanted to quickly change the subject to the football again.

RUSH:  Sure.

CALLER:  You've done a great job covering it.  Emmitt Smith and Dickerson on one side of the football have said no way this can happen, and I'm gonna turn it around on you and say, how is any professional football player ever going to be able to make a tackle in the open field or otherwise on the defensive side of the ball without their head in front of their shoulder?

RUSH:  Well, that is an excellent question.  One thing that's an interesting thing to do, and if you can, it would be fascinating. Go back and get some tapes of college football from the forties and fifties, and you'll see what I think the NFL has in mind here, that kind of football.  But what they're really trying to stop on the defensive side is these defensive backs launching themselves, leaving their feet with their head first.  That's the real thing that they're trying to stop.  The running back side of it, that's just gonna be real hard to police, particularly out in the open field. But the launching, the defensive backs launching themselves like missiles, that has not been traditionally the way the game is played.  It is relatively new in the NFL. 

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RUSH: Now, moving back on this football business. I think they're gonna have to change the name of the league from the National Football League to the Attorneys Football League, or maybe change it to the LFL, the Lawyers Football League, because that's what happens with this rules change.  Running backs outside the tackle box and defensive players cannot lower the helmet.  Now, people are starting to weigh in on this now, 'cause this came as a shock. 

As of late this morning, at the owners meetings, this rule was thought to be in such weak shape that they were gonna table it until the next owners meetings in May, and then out of the blue it passes nearly unanimously, 31 to one. The only team voting against it, Cincinnati Bengals. 

Mike Mayock, who was a commentator, color commentator for NFL games on the NFL Network and a former defensive back for the New York Giants, thinks that they've crossed the line now with this rule.  While I applaud the league for most of what's going on with the safety concerns, and all players and former plays applaud that, I look at this rule and I say, at some point I think we're crossing a line. To me, a running back has got to be able to drop his pad level."  Shoulder pads, running backs, they lower themselves. They make themselves smaller targets. They give themselves more energy. It's gravity. The lower to the ground you get, the harder it is to stop you.  You want to prevent people from getting underneath you, being able to lift you up. 

Now, they want the defensive players to lead with their shoulders the old-fashioned way. Like I said, go back and, if you ever do, maybe there's some of this stuff on YouTube.  If you run into college football from the 1940s and fifties, even the sixties, you'll see what the NFL's going for.  There were no launches by defensive backs with their heads at the heads of other players.  It was basically a game played with the shoulders.  And the proper tackle was below the waist, wrap your arms around and basically stop the leg churn, you bring 'em down.  There was no spearing or any of that.  The NFL of the sixties was an entirely different story.  The NFL of the sixties, man, you think it's bad now. I mean, those guys were a different breed.  There was clotheslining.

You ought to look up a guy named Hardy Brown.  Hardy Brown played for the San Francisco 49ers.  He was not a big guy at all, but he was by reputation the hardest hitter of his era.  People were afraid to go up against Hardy Brown.  The NFL game in the fifties and sixties was an entirely different proposition.  It wasn't nearly as sanitized as the game is today.  Nevertheless, Mayock says, "A running back has got to be able to drop his pad level. And when a running back drops his pad level, his head goes with it. That's just the way you play football. And from a defensive player's perspective -- which I was -- I understand and respect that. I think it's part of the game, and I don't think you can legislate all contact and all forcible head hits out of this game."

You just can't do it.  He went on to say that he thinks the owners have dramatically altered the sport of football today and he's right. 

I'm gonna make you a prediction.  If this rule holds up, what is going to happen is gonna be just like the NBA.  Teams are gonna score every time they get the ball, and the last team that has the ball is gonna win.  It's gonna be ping-pong back and forth on the football people.  Mayock says, "I'm not a fan of this rule at all.  I think it crosses a line." And then he says the obligatory, "We all love safety, but at some point, football's got to be football. If a running back can't drop his pad level, I don't think it's football anymore."

He's right about that, but there's something else going on here.  Now, I don't quite know how to say it.  But they're taking manliness out of the game.  And not just football.  When I say "they," I'm talking about the culture warriors, the politically correct.  The same type of people, same type of thinking which says that at school we're not letting students form friendships, because they will eventually get hurt.  And we're not letting adults hug any child other than his or her own. 

We're taking manliness out of culture and out of society.  Football, the people that play it, forget what these guys in this lawsuit about not knowing about concussions are saying.  Everybody that plays this game at the professional level knows full well what they're getting into.  They love it, by the way.  Nobody is making them play at the NFL level.  They love it.  In many cases, it is the only opportunity these guys are going to have to earn the kind of money that they can earn playing this game.  They're not gonna have opportunities to make this kind of money doing other things.  They love it.  This is what they're oriented to. 

There is a warrior-type mentality to this game by nature.  Then it can be added to by coaching, starting at the high school level.  It can be taught and coached any number of ways.  But it is taught and coached as a manly sport.  If you suffer a cut or an injury, it's not that they're badges of honor, but everybody knows it's part of it.  And you can't sanitize life.  You can't legislate, you can't punish, you can't take any of the pain out of life.  You can try to medicate yourself so that you don't feel it, but all you're doing is hiding from it, and you're not living when you do that. 

We live in a free society where people are free to choose what they want to do.  It's not a game that sanctions murder.  It's not a game that purposely attempts to inflict damage on people.  It is something that happens as a result.  But these are some of the finest, most highly trained and tuned athletes in the country.  And it's what their natural talents and abilities incline them to do.  They willingly choose to do it.  Nobody plays this game with the idea that -- how to say this.  I don't want to be misquoted and be blatantly, totally misunderstood here.  I'm not saying the people that play it want to suffer injuries because that's manly.  That's not it at all.  It's just that, you know, life happens. 

People choose to climb mountains.  I wouldn't.  I think it's stupid.  But people choose to do it.  If they want to, fine and dandy.  Other people, you know, want to scuba dive, go down 5,000 feet. I wouldn't do it, but some people do.  But there are people who are attempting to take the risk out of everything in life, and it's not possible.  And the more these people -- I'll tell you who they are.  They're all over the place. They're at your school. They are trying to determine what you can and can't eat, where you can and can't eat it.  It's none of their business.  If they ever fully prevail, this country's finished.  It's going to be a nation of sissies and wusses and wimps.  And that's not who we are.  And I don't think that's what people are trying to effect here.  I think this is really fear of lawyers. 

There's this massive class-action lawsuit out there with thousands of former players trying to score money 'cause they're way beyond their earning years.  And they're trying to say that they didn't know that this kind of long-term damage could result from these injuries.  And that's lawyers guiding the procedures and so forth.  Well, the owners have to take that seriously.  They're the ones being sued.  They are the NFL.  If this class-action suit actually ever sees a courtroom and there actually is a verdict or even if there's  a settlement, it's gonna cost somebody, a lot of people, a lot of money. So they're trying to eliminate that.  I understand that. 

But Mayock's concern here is you're changing the game.  It isn't going to be football.  And once it stops being football, it's gonna stop having the attraction that it has to people that don't play the game.  It's gonna be become just another average, run-of-the-mill Sunday afternoon professional sport that has no particular drama to it. They're gonna water it down to the point that it really comes down to nothing more than who is the last team to have the ball.  But if you want to live your life risk-free, you're not living.  You're squandering the only life that you have.  If you want guarantees that every risky thing you do is going to pay off, you're not living, and you're asking for all kinds of unrealistic things.  But there are people that think it's possible, there are people demanding it, and they're trying to enforce their silly, shortsighted beliefs on everybody. 

Once they bring the power of the plaintiff's bar into it, the possibility that the people that administer this game, the owners in the league could be liable for gazillions of dollars of damages, then they are potentially going to change the very nature and structure of the game.  There's no question.  And I think they are.  I think you better enjoy it while you can, because it's on the fast track now to not being the game it's always been.  And I do not say that lightly.  

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