Thursday, January 22, 2009
Where Have You Gone Jay Novacek?
Are NFL players any safer than they were 75 years ago? Hundreds of equipment changes have been made over the years in an attempt make the NFL "safer". The most obvious of these changes has been with the face mask. In my opinion, these equipment changes are not making the NFL any safer, because they are turning football players into weapons.
The single bar. The "crosshair". The plastic facemask. These are the NFL facemasks of my youth and are by far the best ones. They were very simple and did their job of protecting the players face. Now, we have facemasks like the one Ladainian Tomlinson sports that look completely ridiculous and don't appear to do much more than the old ones. Except for maybe block more bugs from flying into LT's mouth. In fact, they look like more fun to grab onto and yank, except you might get your finger caught and break it. While I am sure that there are some advances that the new facemasks have made, I disagree that the players are any safer out there. As with things like lighter shoulder pads, more concussion proof helmets, those ironing board things that protect players necks, etc., newer facemasks are giving players a false sense of security. With all this fancy new equipment, players think that they are indestructible and they run faster, hit harder, and take more risks. How many times have you seen a guy like Brian Dawkins or Troy Polamalu lead with his head down when making a tackle? Or a running back dive over the line on a goal line play with no clue who is on the other side? These type of plays end up injuring someone on the field, and would not happen if the players did not feel invincible in their armor-like equipment. If they had the old leather helmets and the heavy pads, they would not be making these kinds of plays, and I feel that there would be far less injuries. Maybe I am judging too much from my own experience, but I have never been injured playing a game of tackle football with no pads on. In my brief but illustrious football career in high school, I think I injured myself in some way every day. I don't know if there is a way to research it, but I would wager that the old school football players (or even rugby players) were injured less, and in less severe fashion, than current football players.
The NFL will never revert to older equipment. As the talent level keeps rising, researchers will find new breakthroughs to make the athlete lighter or faster so as not to hinder him(think about astroturf, how many injuries did that scientific breakthrough cause?). This will result in more severe injuries as the athletes fly around the field faster and faster. If you ask me, the NFL should bring back the plastic mask, the crosshair, the single bar or maybe even the no bar facemask. Maybe just eliminate pads altogether. That would make players responsible for their own actions out on the field and we would see less recklessness and stupid plays. Who's with me? McGahee? Everett? Anyone?