NFL’s Good Intentions Fuel their Overreaction

The NFL undoubtedly has their heart in the right place in wanting to protect players from vicious illegal hits. But as English poet John Milton first said back in the 17th-century “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

In this case it appears that those good intentions caused the NFL to overreact in levying $175,000 in fines to three defensive players for illegal hits in last weekend’s games . In fact one of those players’ hits, though vicious, was clearly legal under the leagues current rules . Clearly the league wanted to send a message, but the message it delivered was so unclear that it is sure to ripple through the league causing unintended consequences.

Dealing strictly from the mental side of things, this will force defensive players into thinking rather than reacting mode. My entire business is based on getting people to perform at their optimum level and this is generally done on the most basic level by teaching them to go from thinking mode to reacting mode. This new edict from Roger Goodell will result in a huge advantage to all offenses. One of the reasons some players talk trash is to get their opponent to go “into their head.” What that means is to get them thinking instead of reacting and playing their game. Now the NFL is effectively getting all defensive players “into their head” before the ball is kicked off.

Players are at their best when they are playing without fear. Listen to projected first round draft pick Jake Locker’s comments after upsetting USC a few weeks ago: “(We) didn’t care if (we) made a mistake, went out and played fast and played hard and had fun and enjoyed playing the game.”

How can a defensive player play without fear of making a mistake -and getting fined or suspended- when the definition of what constitutes a vicious illegal hit is so ill defined. As Brian Urlacher said in regards to Dunta Robinson’s hit on DeSean Jackson “Robinson had a great hit. They were both running full-speed.”

It would be nice if the NFL came down with strict guidelines for what constitutes a vicious illegal hit before instituting harsh punishment. It’s not fair to the players to change the interpretation in the middle of the season. Ideally, the league would come up with the guidelines prior to the start of the season so each team has time to work and adjust before the season is underway.

The way the NFL has handled this, results in a Christmas gift to all the offensive coaches and players in the league.


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