Sam Huff column: Is the tail wagging the dog in the NFL?
Sam Huff was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. Huff, a Middleburg resident, played in the National Football League from 1956 through 1969 as a linebacker with the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins.
Is it all about money or what? Roger Goodell and his staff at the National Football League in New York have fined Washington Redskins rookie wide receiver Niles Paul $20,000 for a hit he made in the St. Louis Rams’ game recently, a 17-10 win for the Redskins.
The rookie wide receiver made a helmet-to-helmet hit on Rams’ returner Austin Pettis while he was recovering a punt, and Paul was assessed a 15-yard personal-foul penalty on the play. Now there is a fine?
If I were Mike Shanahan, I would put a star on Niles Paul’s helmet and give him a party! Paul was doing his job. Before that hit, the Rams’ returner should have signaled a fair catch, which he could have done while the ball was in the air, but he did not. Considering the situation, I am appalled and again made to quote one of my favorite coaches, Vince Lombardi, “What the hell is going on out there?”
Is anyone listening? This is the NFL! As I say often, NFL may mean “not for long,” but also means, “I came a long way to get here, and the journey was not easy.”
NFL football is not for boys; it is war without guns. If you had ever been on the line facing a Jim Brown, a Jim Taylor or at the bottom in a pile of NFL players fighting for a fumbled ball and fighting for a moment of fame, you would know what I mean. It’s war, and that NFL regulation approved helmet is not an Easter bonnet.
I know about hits. I wrote and published a book on tackles when I played for the Giants. I was taught by coaching greats like Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi, and a long list of coaching greats have taught the same thing, “When in doubt, take ‘em (the opponent) out.”
That dented helmet of mine in the National Football Hall of Fame is a testimonial; I dented it hitting Jim Taylor in a game between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers, a championship game in Yankee Stadium. Once, when I made a hit against Jim Brown, who I think was the greatest athlete in sports ever, he got up and said with a grin, “Great hit, Big Sam,” the ultimate compliment. When I played then, when I made a great hit and as I left the field, my coaches patted me on the back and said, “Great hit, Sam.” I loved it!
NFL games are violent sports games, but so are most really great and exciting sports games. Ever watch the jockeys fighting for fame at the Kentucky Derby in those short few minutes? Ever wonder why jockey Calvin Borel won in 2007, 2009 and 2010?
Football is America’s favorite sport, all the way through high school, college and the pros. Fans pay a lot of money to watch the contests, and for those who love it, NFL football is prime. Violent? Yes. Great? Yes.
So who are the ones making the rules that Roger Godell and his staff in New York are enforcing this season? Have they ever played the game? Who’s making the decisions to change the greatest game ever? Anyone only has to google NFL fines to see that there is a good deal of money involved here. Are the owners, the coaches, and most of all the players involved in these decisions when fines are levied?