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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. 


don’t know what to say really.
Three minutes
to the biggest battle of our professional lives
all comes down to today.
we heal
as a team
or we are going to crumble.
Inch by inch
play by play
till we’re finished.
We are in hell right now, gentlemen
believe me
we can stay here
and get the #### kicked out of us
we can fight our way
back into the light.
We can climb out of hell.
One inch, at a time.

Now I can’t do it for you.
I’m too old.
I look around and I see these young faces
and I think
I mean
I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make.
I uh….
I pissed away all my money
believe it or not.
I chased off
anyone who has ever loved me.
And lately,
I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get old in life
things get taken from you.
That’s, that’s part of life.
you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out that life is just a game of inches.
So is football.
Because in either game
life or football
the margin for error is so small.
I mean
one half step too late or to early
you don’t quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast
and you don’t quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game
every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us
to pieces for that inch.
We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.
Cause we know
when we add up all those inches
that’s going to make the ####### difference
between WINNING and LOSING
between LIVING and DYING.

I’ll tell you this
in any fight
it is the guy who is willing to die
who is going to win that inch.
And I know
if I am going to have any life anymore
it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch
because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.

Now I can’t make you do it.
You gotta look at the guy next to you.
Look into his eyes.
Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.
You are going to see a guy
who will sacrifice himself for this team
because he knows when it comes down to it,
you are gonna do the same thing for him.

That’s a team, gentlemen
and either we heal now, as a team,
or we will die as individuals.
That’s football guys.
That’s all it is.
Now, whattaya gonna do?

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