Thursday, October 29, 2009

USC Player Gets Called Out By Ignorant Congressman

While I am thankful that this remark did not generate a knee-jerk reaction (calling an African-American a headhunter could set off shockwaves in this racially-charged era), I have to defend USC safety Taylor Mays from some rather unfair charges:
[...] Mays got blindsided by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on NFL head injuries.

Lungren, a Notre Dame graduate, first talked about former Oakland Raiders player Jack Tatum setting the bar for hits designed to injure.

He then complained about Florida quarterback Tim Tebow being rushed back from a concussion before finally getting to Mays.

The congressman didn't identify the two-time All-American by name, but said that while attending a Notre Dame game a couple of weeks ago he "saw a headhunter on the field" tear the helmet off a player.

Lungren was referring to Mays' fourth-quarter hit on Notre Dame receiver Robby Parris, who lost his helmet on the play. Lungren said that no penalty was called on the play, but Mays was actually flagged for a personal foul.

Lungren then pointed out that last Saturday Mays tore the helmet off Oregon State receiver James Rodgers, on a play the Beavers scored a touchdown. No penalty was called on that play, and the Pacific 10 Conference on Monday announced it had suspended the official who should have made a call.

Coach Pete Carroll this week defended Mays' physical style and Rodgers on Tuesday absolved Mays of dirty play.

A so-called headhunter in football is antithetical to the game. No one "head hunts" unless they are being supported by the coaches on that team. In that case, the headhunter is setting himself up for a fall because that coach is not going to be on the field between him and the hit that tears out his knee or knocks him out cold. There's a difference between being a player who hits hard and who hits dirty, and dirty players don't last long at any level--they get taken down a notch quickly.

For example, this is what "headhunting" looks and sounds like:
Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren announced his plan for stopping the Steelers' star rookie quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who is 6-0 as a starter, including a 34-23 victory Oct. 10 over Cleveland in Pittsburgh.

''Go across his head, just like you would anybody else,'' Warren told reporters Thursday in Cleveland. ''Got to get to him and go across his head. Make him think there's pressure when there's not, so he gets the ball out a little faster. Try to take it to him.''

When asked if he meant that he wanted to get in Roethlisberger's head, Warren said no.

''On his head,'' Warren responded. ''Not in it, on it. One rule they used to tell me, 'Kill the head and the body's dead.'''

He made clear what he meant by smashing his forearm into his right hand.

Hitting a quarterback in the head is forbidden in the National Football League, and Warren knows that from experience. He was fined $35,000 in 2001 for a hard and high hit on Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell while Brunell was standing far away from the play after having thrown an interception.

Nonetheless, Warren said, paying another fine for hitting Roethlisberger ''would be well worth it.'' He added that quarterbacks ''are already overprotected in this league.''

What coach would support that idiocy? What coach is going to go out there and say, "yes, we want Warren to hit the quarterback in the head so hard, the quarterback spits out his own spleen and pees himself."

Do you see any bluster in what Mays is doing? No, he's hitting people hard because he's a safety--that's what they do. He's not a special teams guy, he's not a supercharged wannabe or a perennial bust like Gerard Warren. He's not being thrown out of games. I saw the hit on the Notre Dame player agreed with the fact that he got flagged, simply because the refs are going to throw the flag virtually every time a helmet gets popped off in order to control the game, not to make a deliberate judgement on the legitimacy of the hit--whether or not it was truly a cheap shot or a legitimate hit (not ferocious, btw). In many cases, the laundry hits the field in order to maintain authority and control of the game situation. A good ref knows when to assess penalties to send messages to the teams on the field. A bad ref lets things get out of hand. Mays was flagged on that play, and this is my opinion, because the refs felt that if they didn't intercede, they might lose control of the players and the subsequent retaliation might cause someone a serious injury. He's playing aggressive football, which is like saying he's driving fast as a NASCAR driver.

All too often, members of Congress just run their mouths and don't understand anything. In this case, a young amateur athlete was called out for no reason.


  1. "ferocity," not "veracity." "veracity" means truth.

  2. Yes, I agree that it isn't clear. Using the word "veracity" isn't correct in this case. My intention was to talk about how the ref wasn't really judging whether or not the hit was truly a cheap shot or a clean hit or a hit outside of the rules--not whether it was ferocious. I was going for a word that mean legitimate and I should have just used that word, and not used veracity.

    Is it clearer now? I hope so.