x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Head-hunting dip: a lull or a transformation?

One week after the crackdown on what the NFL deemed excessive brutality, players were on their best behaviour.

One week after the crackdown on what the NFL deemed excessive brutality, players were on their best behaviour. Not a single penalty flag was dropped for hits on defenceless receivers, and there were no blatantly intentional helmet-to-helmet collisions.

Let us not yet declare the league cleansed of such viciousness. Players were on notice from a series of 15 fines levied against the accused, topping out at US$75,000 (Dh275,000) for James Harrison, the Pittsburgh linebacker, and a few dismissed the fuss as a fleeting occurrence caused by an unusually nasty previous weekend.

Credit the league for not just conveying its concerns with fines and dire warnings. It sent out memos and videos to illustrate which hits are permissible, though some players did label them confusing. It even praised two of the serial hitters this week for restraining themselves.

Of course, the impetus behind the league's attention might be self-serving. Jay Feely, the Arizona Cardinals kicker, tweeted: "I believe NFL lawyers fear [a] class-action lawsuit."

Further, there is the NFL's proposal for an 18-game schedule, which has been criticised for exposing players to two more weeks of violent collisions and injuries.

Changing the culture will not be easy. Joshua Cribbs, the Cleveland Browns running back, advised his friend, the Steelers' Harrison, to stay true to his violent self because his job is to "knock people out".

One of the players Harrison knocked out: Cribbs.