Sam Huff column: The Suicide Squad
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.
The rule makers for the NFL who have never played the game are now telling everyone how the game should be played.
As I understand it, the commissioners, Roger Goodell and his staff, not only have to deal with all of these rule changes, but also have to deal with the owners, agents, officials, coaches, and the NFLPA. That is a difficult job. Even as an older retired player, I am concerned.
I read about the rules that are being changed. One rule being considered for change, the one having to do with the action at the beginning of the game at the kickoff or any kickoff, is my concern. This rule is being changed in order to take some of the violence out of the game.
When I was playing for the Giants, our defensive team was called the “suicide squad” because my teammates and I were running full speed as defenders, hell bent on tackling the ball carrier. These tackles are usually head-on collisions. The NFL television channel has a documentary on the 10 best defenses of all time. The Giant defense that Andy Robustelli and I played on was ranked as number six.
Our team changed the way the word “defense” was pronounced. The accent was changed. Defense became “de’fense.” The fans in the stands shouted, “DE-fense, DE-fense.” I was the hit man. It was war without guns. We loved the game and we played the game. We tried to knock our opponents out. Was that full speed attack dangerous? Yes, it was. Was it safe? No, it wasn’t. Was it necessary? It won games.
If there is going to be a change, eliminate the kickoff totally. At the beginning when the officials meet with the captains to flip the coin, why not let the team winning the toss receive at the 20-yard line?
Sonny Jurgensen and I were captains of the Redskins at one time. Looking back on those games, do I wish I could have skipped those kickoffs? My memory probably would be better today if I had. That part of the game is one of the most dangerous parts of the game. Getting the ball at the 20-yard line still leaves 80 yards to go for a touchdown for the receiving team, but the most violent part of the game has been taken away.