Any defensive player who leaves his feet to inflict a helmet-to-head blow on either a quarterback—as Marshall and Lathon did—or a receiver should be suspended for a week and lose a game's pay. When Arizona strong safety Lorenzo Lynch left his feet to level Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Randall Cunningham on Nov. 20, the TV announcers barely acknowledged it, though a penalty was called. This is the worst kind of head-hunting, and it has to be outlawed.
•Suspend the cheap-shot artists.
A third unnecessary-roughness or roughing-the-passer call on a player in one season should earn the player a one-week suspension without pay. In the World Cup we saw how rough play could be curtailed by the issuing of a yellow card as a warning for a flagrant foul. A second yellow—in either the game in which the original foul occurred or in the next one—resulted in ejection from the remainder of the game and from the following one. A similar system in the NFL might cause defensive players to rein in some of their aggression.
•Add an eighth official, the quarterback judge, to each crew.
The referee has the task of monitoring the offensive backfield once a play begins. The fact is, too much is going on for the ref to be able to see everything that goes on in the backfield. A quarterback judge would focus on the quarterback and nobody else. The cost to the league of adding this official? About $750,000 a year. That's about a third of what an advertiser will pay to run one 60-second commercial during the Super Bowl.
•Make every player—especially quarterbacks—attend a lecture on the padded helmet, and urge them to wear it.
After San Francisco 49er tackle Steve Wallace suffered the fifth concussion of his career on Oct. 16, he decided to wear a Pro Cap, a half-inch-thick rubber shell attached by Velcro to the outside of his helmet. "Everyone laughs at me," Wallace says. "But what's more important—your ego or being able to play with your kids with a clear head after your career is over? I'll never play again without it."
Wallace says that before he wore the shell, a helmet-to-helmet hit would cause grogginess and watering of his eyes. Three weeks after suffering his most recent concussion, Wallace was wearing the cap when he banged helmets with a Washington Redskin defender, and he felt no ill effects. Wallace believes that all quarterbacks ought to wear these shells. "With defensive players getting bigger," says Wallace—who, at 6'5" and 280 pounds is not especially large for his position—"and stronger and faster, the hits on quarterbacks are harder than ever, and I know this would help them stay on the field more. I'm amazed the quarterbacks aren't all wearing these."
What's the downside to the helmet cap? There is none.
•Take a stand against artificial turf.