Not everyone shares the league's concern. Some players, in fact, when they know a guy has had head injuries, will make it a point to inflict even more damage to that fellow's head.
Such was the case on Sunday with the Giants and Kyle Williams, who has been concussed in the past. Williams, of course, went on to make two crucial errors that helped cost the 49ers the game. Now, the Giants hunting Williams' head didn't have anything to do with the mistakes he made, and there were no illegal hits to his head or anything of the sort. That's not the issue.
The issue is that the message the league has been trying to send about concussions is clearly not getting through. Or it is, and it's being ignored. Via the AP's Jim Litke, check out these quotes from Giants defenders Jacquian Williams and Devin Thomas.
"The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game," said Jacquian Williams, who forced the second fumble, in overtime, to set up New York's game-winning field goal.
"He's had a lot of concussions," said Devin Thomas, who recovered both fumbles. "We were just like, 'We gotta put a hit on that guy.'" Later in the same interview, he told the Newark Star-Ledger that teammate and backup safety Tyler Sash "did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up."
Well, at least we get a status report on how much progress has been made in changing the culture of head injuries in the NFL: not a whole lot.
Not that I'm surprised. In a situation like this, there's a lot on the line: Super Bowls, rings, paychecks, jobs, the approval of fellow players and coaches. NFL players are trained to pursue those things at all costs, even if it means that Kyle Williams loses the ability to tie his shoes at the age of 45.
It's a difficult issue, and I'm not trying to trash the Giants and say that they're some evil band of headhunters who would dunk a baby seal into a barrel of crude oil if they thought it might get them a fumble recovery. The quotes are just illustrative of how the culture on head injuries hasn't changed much.
And in the Giants defense, other plays told a different story. Said Justin Tuck on the subject:
"Obviously we consider ourselves to be a physical group that wants to hit everyone. I don't think we've ever talked about knocking someone out, concussion-wise. We want to hit everybody hard, but we stay away from that."
Michael Boley echoed that, saying that targeting someone with a concussion isn't something they'd ever discussed as a team. But obviously, those guys got a different message than the one Williams and Thomas got.
If anything, it puts greater responsibility in the hands of the doctors and team personnel who decide who does and doesn't get on the field. If a player is at any kind of a raised level of risk, know that the second that player is sent back out on the field, opposing players are going to attack that head like it's a delicious, ripe watermelon on a hot summer day.
Responsibility falls on the players themselves, too. Take care of yourselves. Don't count on someone else doing it for you. If your head's not right, don't go out there. That's easier said than done, I know, but give it some thought. You can't count on your fellow players to take care of one of their own, either. If it benefits someone else to destroy your head, that player is going to destroy your head, and then he's going to talk to the media about it like it was no big thing.
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