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Eric Martin suspended for hit on Andrew Hudson | AND | The culture of big hits in football

Via ESPN.  The dude that laid the absolute cheapshot on Andrew Hudson is being suspended for one game for the hit.  What is a little disturbing is that the suspension came down from the Big XII rather than Nebraska enforcing a punishment themselves, but as I don't know the innerworkings of the Nebraska athletic department I don't really know that action wasn't considered.  But to an outsider, it appears that while their coaches were busy with spin control, the conference was reviewing the hit, and I'm sure Martins subsequent reaction/celebration.

I'm not necessarily calling out Nebraska here, but more pointing out the difference in the way coaches and players view the game versus the way doctors and administrators view it.  I don't doubt that Oklahoma State coaches would have handled this the same way had the roles been reversed...and that is what is going to have to change.


From the first time we all put on a helmet and pads, we were taught that the key to football is instilling fear into your opponent. Fear of getting beat on a given play, fear of losing, and especially fear of getting hit. This is especially true on the defensive side of the ball where the main focus of most successful defenses is to make their opponent afraid to cross the middle, to run to one side, or to drop their QB back without extra protection.  And make no mistake, much of this fear they are trying to instill in their opponent isn't "fear of losing yardage", it is "fear of severe injury".  This is the mindset that will have to change across all levels of football.

A lot of people that know more than I do have written about the effects of CTE, and the some of the recent hits at the NFL level, so I won't go into the reason for the need to control the hits, but I did want to briefly address the behavior that drives these types of hits, and why it will be going away.

While this is pure conjecture, I would not be surprised if Martin and the Nebraska coaches still feel like Martin made a great play there.  Sure it was unnecessary and brutal, but it also set a tone and was part of the reason for all the pooch kicks that followed.  And this is what will be changing...the idea that fear of severe injury is an acceptable strategy, and that it is "a part of the game".

As it is becoming obvious that the sport cannot allow its players to risk their lives on each play (and really to risk the long-term damage sustained as each plays hits accumulate on top of the hits taken on the play before it), the long practiced mentality of wanting to physically punish your opponent is going to be altered.  Whether the behavior change will be driven by penalties, fines, suspensions, etc will have to be seen, but what is clear is that the culture will have to adjust... from youth football all the way through the NFL.  Starting at a young age, players will have to be taught form tackling rather than the value of a brutal hit.

While this will be a major philosophical shift for current football players, coaches, and especially fans, it isn't like drastic safety rules haven't had to be implemented, and adjusted to, before.  I am sure that when the facemask was introduced there was plenty of opposition stating that eye-gouging and biting were just "a part of the game".  I would guarantee that rhetoric similar to what you hear now was being said back then.... "Hey puss, the players know the risk going in and if they want to play football, then they just have to accept that maybe George Halas will bite their face".

It will take some adjustments by all of us to watch receivers being allowed to roam freely across the middle of the field, only fearing a well-formed wrap up tackle rather than being blindsided by a force equivalent to a car crash, but the sport will adjust, as will our expectations of what we watch. Phrases screamed by coaches, players, and fans like "take his head off" will go by the wayside as the emphasis shifts more to pure football, and off of big hits, but it will not ruin football.

So agree or disagree with it, the rule changes will be coming... and with them the strategy and philosophical changes of players, coaches, and fans will be forced to follow.  I think at his point it is just a question of when the rules will be implemented, and how severely they will change the way players are allowed to hit.