The first is where hard-hitting safeties were once feared, respected and lauded in the NFL. A world created and cultivated by the likes of Ken Houston, Jack Tatum, Ronnie Lott and John Lynch. When those stars delivered punishing hits, they were cheered like gladiators. Goldson was following in their legendary footsteps.
That world is being eliminated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The NFL is not interested in seeing its players suffer head injuries. Getting sued for millions of dollars by former players who sustained concussions is one major factor that has led to rules changes. Seeing several former players contract chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), such as Junior Seau, is troublesome for the NFL, even if there is not a direct medical link between blows to the head and the ailment.
Goldson’s worlds collided in 2013. He faced a one-game suspension for a hit against New Orleans running back Darren Sproles, which would have cost him a game check worth $264,705. The suspension was overturned, but Goldson was still fined $100,000, tied for the largest non-suspension on-field fine in league history.
As result, Goldson plans to work with tackling guru Bobby Hosea, owner of Train 'Em Up Academy, this offseason in hopes of adjusting to the new world of player safety.
"I said this can’t be cool because every time I hit somebody I’m getting a fine," Goldson said. "At that point, I realized I have to figure something out."
Sure, it seems like Goldson is exaggerating when he says “every time.” From his point of view, it must seem that way.
Goldson was fined $30,000 for a hit on Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland in Week 1. Then there was the $100,000 fine in Week 2. He was suspended following a hit on Atlanta's Roddy White and fined his game check worth nearly $265,000. Goldson later received a $60,000 fine for an illegal hit on St. Louis' Stedman Bailey.
It adds up to $455,000 in fines last season. Nearly $500,000 for doing not only what got him into the NFL, but what prompted Tampa Bay to sign Goldson to a five-year deal worth $41.25 million prior to last season.
Goldson admits the fines affected his play and he hopes to resolve the issue this offseason.
"This is what got me my deal. This is what got me my name,” Goldson said. “This is how you make a name for yourself in this league. You set yourself apart by standing out. What I was doing was making a hit. Just playing hard and playing football the way it’s supposed to be played. I’m hearing fans and coaches coming up to me after the game and say, 'I love the way you play, don’t change the way you play.' This is after I’m being fined.
"They’re not being fair because it’s not their money they’re losing, but at the same time, they understand that it comes with the territory, what the safety position is all about, how you play the game. Now they’re trying to take that away from me. It’s the way I make my money. The way I feed my family. Just the player that I am.”
Goldson fully understands what comes with being a hard-hitting NFL safety.
He often questions if referees targeted him last season. It is an easy accusation to dismiss, but a conversation before a game last season raised Goldson's antenna.
"When a referee comes up to me and says, ‘Be careful today,’ what do you mean?" Goldson said. "You’re going to call me out before the game even started. Am I brought up? Am I talked about?"
Saints quarterback Drew Brees did not leave any room for ambiguity.
Brees said Goldson "certainly has no regards for rules in the middle" and "he's going after guys' heads" when asked about the hit on Sproles. Goldson resents any insulation about him being a dirty player.
"I felt very disrespected," Goldson said. "This is coming from one player to another. We all love the game. We all play the game to win, and that’s all I ever wanted to do was win. People ask me why do you hit so hard? Why do you play so hard? I just explain to them that all I want to do is win. For him to come out and say something like that when that was never the case was shocking. I respected him as a football player, but with something being said like that, it was like he was trying to sabotage, pretty much hate on me, because I was known for being a ferocious hitter.
"He’s an icon guy in our league, and he’s talking about how I’m trying to take guy’s heads off and being a dirty player. I just felt very disrespected, and I didn’t think that was called for."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady defended Goldson, and said the safety was his favorite player in Tampa Bay’s secondary.
Regardless, Goldson plans to get back to his roots during the offseason.
Hosea, who played at UCLA, coached Goldson in Pop Warner football, and developed tackling techniques to prevent injuries to the hitter and recipient. Hosea believes by returning to basics, Goldson can still be a fearsome tackler, but without the numerous fines.
"When we get together, we’re going to break it down," Hosea said. "We’re going to do film study on tackling, and we’re going to look at all these flags, and we’re going to break it down. Dashon was the best tackler you’ve ever seen in high school … something happened in the last couple of years when he started dropping his hat. I haven’t seen all of them [illegal hits]. I saw a couple.
"I know him. He’s like a son to me. He can control what he’s doing. He’s gotten away from it. I don’t know what Greg Schiano [former Bucs coach] was teaching or emphasizing, or if they were emphasizing anything at all. We’re going to get Dashon back on track, and keep his money in his pocket."
Goldson does not have a choice.
The world he once lived in is gone.
He will conform to the new one.
"Guys are going to have to respect me if they come across that middle, regardless," Goldson said. "I will have to deal with the rest of that stuff afterwards. At the same time, you got to be smart about it. I’m going to continue to be a hard hitter. I don’t know if that can ever be taken away from you. They can fine me all they want and put me out there to look bad, but as long as I’m playing football in the NFL, I’m going to give a team what I have, which is trying to win a game every week."
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