NFL’s Current Boogeyman Kareem Jackson: A Throwback to Older Generation

It seems crazy when you first think about it. The NFL has an entire committee that has to try and look out for the health and safety of players but still keep a level of physicality that attracts an audience that enjoys watching big collisions. Since 2002, the NFL has made over 50 rule changes to try and reduce injuries.

But the biggest focus has been on concussions and helping players avoid suffering Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a progressive and fatal brain disease that is developed by suffering traumatic brain injuries, which include concussions and other blows to the head. The effort to cut down on the hits most likely to cause those injuries, caused by players lowering their helmets to make contact with other players’ helmets, has resulted in the biggest battles between players and the league.

Denver Broncos defensive back Kareem Jackson is the most recent target of the league’s ire, according to Black sports news. Jackson drew a large suspension for his hit on Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback last week. The league is now once again grappling with how to keep players from repeating the illegal hits.

Jackson’s issues this season are only part of the league’s history with big hits. Recent sports updates show the NFL is always trying to avoid accusations of the league becoming too “soft” from long-time players and fans.

 

Jackson Has Lost $500K

 

What made the league hand Jackson a four-game suspension was a pattern of incidents this season. While the hit on Dobbs in last Sunday’s game wasn’t flagged, commentators on the game agree it should have been. When Jackson appealed the suspension, the appeal was denied, and it was upheld.

Jackson was previously suspended for four games earlier in this season after laying an illegal hit on Green Bay Packers tight end Luke Musgrave. But it goes beyond the hit on Musgrave. Jackson has been fined four times this season for unnecessary roughness. All of the fines added together would result in him losing $559,889 in salary.

Jackson’s suspension for the Musgrave hit was reduced to two games. Jackson ended up sitting out the Broncos’ Week 8 win over Kansas City and their Week 10 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

 

Tatum’s Hit on Stingley Signaled Change

 

 

There was nothing technically wrong with Jack Tatum’s hit during the Raiders’ preseason game with the New England Patriots on Aug. 12, 1978. However, the damage done from the helmet-to-shoulder hit led to major changes. Tatum was known for launching his entire body into opposing players.

The NFL has since changed the rule. During that preseason game, Tatum launched himself into a defenseless wide receiver, Patriots’ star Darryl Stingley, who was diving for a pass. Tatum’s helmet connected with his shoulder and ended up paralyzing Stingley, who spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

Tatum, known as the Assassin, was a ferocious hitter who laid out his fair share of players. Another memorable hit of his came in Super Bowl XI in 1977 against the Minnesota Vikings. Tatum hit Sammy White so hard that his chin strap came off his helmet.

 

Harrison Had a Hard Time Adjusting

 

Part of the NFL’s difficulty in making the game safer is how players were asked to change so quickly. The NFL had a battle with Congress in 2009 about player safety and how to protect players. While the NFL had promised changes, they hadn’t done too much to force the issue.

 

James Harrison’s hit on Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi would be one of many in the 2010 season that forced the NFL to start fining players. In fact, on the day of Harrison’s big hit, Patriots safety Brandon Merriweather and Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson also laid out players on vicious hits. All three men drew big fines.

But for Harrison, this became the start of a personal vendetta against the league and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Harrison would rack up around $225,000 of fines over his career. He also would draw a few sentences. Harrison didn’t play nice with Goodell either, saying memorably in a magazine interview if Goodell was on fire, he wouldn’t put him out.

 

Bounty Gate Embarrasses the NFL

 

While the NFL was trying to clean up the game, it had a scandal brewing that would cause a lot of heads to roll when it surfaced. The New Orleans Saints players and coaches had a slush fund that would pay players “bounties” for big hits on opposing players. This went on from 2009 until the end of the 2012 playoffs.

During the NFC Championship game during the 2009 season, the Saints battered veteran Vikings quarterback Brett Favre with a number of strong hits. An anonymous player was a whistleblower for the scandal, telling the NFL that the Saints had targeted Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Favre. New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was the coach who created the program. 

Williams was suspended indefinitely by the league but was allowed to come back. New Orleans coach Sean Payton was suspended for a season before returning after his suspension.

 

Offensive Players Now Under the Gun as Well

 

The problem with the NFL’s safety policy is that it hasn’t made the fines tiered. In 2023, the NFL wanted to emphasize avoiding blitzing players being hit in the head by running backs or other players in the backfield blocking them. Steelers running back Jaylen Warren has been hurt the most by this rule.

Warren, an undrafted free agent coming out of college, has been twice fined for illegal blocks on defenders. While Warren wasn’t flagged on either play, the NFL still chose to fine him. While Warren got one reduced, he has still paid $97,000 in fines so far this season. He will lose 10 percent of his salary to those penalties, according to up-to-date sports news.

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