The NFL's attentiveness to head trauma isn't going away.
One thing I've been negligent in bringing up recently is how much the league, despite the massive problems defensive players have with this, is going full-speed ahead on the issue of cutting down helmet hits and the launching into defenseless players.
I spoke with retired Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, a league consultant and chair of the league's committee that brainstorms ideas from the teams and from league officials, all designed to improve the game and make it safer. The committee gives ideas to the Competition Committee. Accorsi and veteran league player-personnel official Joel Bussert have looked at a lot of tape from the 1950s and '60s -- an ardent fan in Iowa has some particularly old highlight films from the '50s -- and reached some interesting determinations.
"First,'' said Accorsi, "the rosters were 33, 37, 40 players. On lots of teams in the '50s, like the Baltimore Colts, some of those guys played every play. And the big difference you see is they played under control. They played on their feet. They didn't leave their feet unless they had to. They tackled the way they were supposed to -- face up in the chest. Before all the nickel and dime defenses, you'd see four DBs back there. One guy tackled you. Now, today, you go up for the ball in passing downs, and there's a convention back there. Three or four guys are in the hit, and it's a lot more jarring. On running plays, almost every time, the runner lowers his head. We're trying to do something about that, maybe try to make that illegal.''
But Accorsi said the biggest problem, judging today's game with the one of a half-century ago, is simple: "The worst thing is the launching, guys leaving their feet to hit the ballcarrier like missiles. And look at their bodies. They're chiseled, rock hard. You're getting hit with a ton of bricks. The legal hits are dangerous. What we're trying to do is eliminate the launching.''
Accorsi brought up the 1958 Eastern Conference playoff game between New York and Cleveland as an example of how a hard hit was made in a classic form way -- and a way he thinks is passť today. "Frank Gifford took a swing pass for the Giants, kept his balance, kept his feet, got wrapped up by one of the Browns, and not with the head. They played the game on their feet, and not attacking head-to-head. That's what we've got to take out of the game, all the hits to the head.''
The aftermath of fan treatment at the Super Bowl, Part II
We've been inundated the past eight days, and rightfully so, with the absurd tale of Super Bowl fans with valid tickets getting to the game and being told their seats were not ready. And I hope the 400 or so fans who were deprived get as much from the NFL and the Cowboys as the law allows. That the Cowboys didn't even apply for a permit for the seats until one month before the game, shows the sloppy and haphazardness of stadium preparation, which, quite frankly, stuns me when it comes to Jerry Jones and the NFL. It's inexcusable.
But the other day, longtime NFL writer Cliff Christl from Wisconsin sent me an e-mail describing the treatment some fans trying to enter the stadium got on game day, and I thought it was so interesting, and so disturbing, that I asked if I could reprint it. He said I could. I hope the NFL reviews how ticket holders are admitted to future Super Bowl stadiums, because I can guarantee you based on what I heard before leaving Dallas last Monday, this was not an isolated occurrence.
Christl's note: "Almost by accident, I got to witness and hear firsthand about the mistreatment of fans at Cowboys Stadium beyond those who lost their tickets. Basically, I think all but the earliest arriving fans -- those who arrived four, five hours before kickoff -- had to stand in cattle lines for hours.
"The details: My wife and I arrived at the stadium about 1:30 on a bus. I had a media pass and my wife had a game ticket, so we walked to the media gate first and asked where she should enter. We were told by a gatekeeper there to walk to Gate W, where we saw a sea of humanity: Twenty-five or more yards wide and at least two or three city blocks long. From what I could subsequently gather, Gate W was actually a security checkpoint, not one of the 10 gates to the stadium (four of which were apparently closed for security reasons).
"Based on the instructions of the gatekeeper and having driven or walked along two sides of the stadium, I suspect Gate W was one of only one or two outside gates for regular ticketholders to enter. And I assume that means more than 50,000 fans who had tickets other than for the luxury boxes and club seats had to cram their way into one or two gates. Anyway, I entered the stadium through the media gate within 10 minutes. My wife stood in line for two-and-a-half hours.
"As the time passed, I ran into an old friend from Green Bay, Mike McKenna, a former WBAY sportscaster who was there with his family. He explained that he and his family had waited more than two hours to get in, and that it was a nightmare outside. The more stories I heard the more dreadful they sounded.
"Desperate people were going to the bathroom in empty beer cans, along the fence area, and they weren't all men. Little kids were getting pushed around. Older people were becoming woozy, complaining of pain and dropping out. One elderly man told my wife he was feeling pain in his chest, his legs were numb, and he could no longer take it. People started jumping the gates that everyone had to snake through as they got closer to the stadium and tempers flared. And apparently there was nobody around as far as stadium personnel to help or guide anyone.
"I expected to read something about this whole fiasco in Monday's Dallas Morning News, but their writers were too busy gushing and crowing about what a wonderful day it was after all the bad weather during the week. While I was waiting in the concourse for two hours, I also observed a long line the entire time outside the Pro Shop where people could buy Super Bowl gear. It never seemed to move or get any shorter. I ran into a former colleague at my old paper, and she said she had walked the entire concourse and found only two Pro Shops, both with long lines. Also, the nearest concession stand where I was waiting had run out of food, except for nachos, an hour before kickoff.
"My wife, Mike McKenna and others that I talked to were being good sports about it. As my wife said, after paying what she did for a ticket, she just wanted to put the nightmare behind her and enjoy the game. I think the host committee in Dallas was lucky that Green Bay and Pittsburgh were in the Super Bowl, and people were just happy to be there and not inclined to cause trouble.
"As time passes, more and more people are sharing stories about people waiting for hours in line. ... But I have yet to see anyone investigate the debacle in Dallas and how poorly almost all fans were treated, not just the unfortunate ones who lost their seats.''