I can empathize with Taylor Potts – Sergio Kindle’s bone-jarring sack just won’t go away. From countless SportsCenter highlight reels to the blogosphere to a record-setting four appearances in my inbox, Kindle’s hit has been everywhere during the past week. And why not? He absolutely obliterated [tag]Texas Tech[/tag] QB Taylor Potts and may have killed any shot that Marlon Winn had at becoming an NFL offensive lineman (the only right tackle who’s ever had to feel worse about a blown assignment is the guy who decided to play matador with Lawrence Taylor instead of protecting Joe Theismann). As a Texas Ex who made my way back to the 40 Acres for the showdown, I couldn’t have been happier.
From the moment ABC replayed the sack and Brent Musberger was rendered speechless, discussion has focused on the legality of Kindle’s hit. Did he make first contact with Potts’ helmet or chest? In perhaps the only well-reasoned analysis of Kindle’s hit on Potts, SI FanNation writer Andy Staples proves that the Texas defensive end was in the clear. “He [Kindle] planted his face into the ball, which Potts had clutched to his chest. Then Kindle did what any good tackler is taught to do. He exploded from the knees up and drove his body through the ballcarrier. This explosion caused the crown of his helmet to rise into Potts’ helmet.”
Exactly. Case closed. But it shouldn’t be.
You see, Kindle’s hit was technically legal, but the real problem and the larger issue is the rule itself. Under NCAA rules, if a helmet-to-helmet hit occurs, the player at fault can be suspended and his team penalized. On the surface, this rule makes a lot of sense – its goal is to protect players plain and simple. The consequences, however, could be far-reaching.
When players slow down to think about exactly which part of their body initiates contact with another player, their pace of play drops dramatically (i.e., Bad Roy Williams performance after the creation of an NFL rule banning horse collar tackling – he’s been rendered utterly ineffective). In many cases, players become timid and hesitant and are in far greater physical danger than before. Most coaches will tell you that chances of an injury are greatly reduced when players are moving at full-speed – most blown knees occur when a player is standing still or running slowly, which is when the foot has had time to plant.
Watch Kindle’s hit again. As he comes around Winn, he’s moving at full speed. Had he slowed down to make certain that he didn’t hit Potts’ helmet, he most likely would have dropped his helmet even further. He then would have struck Potts with the very top of his helmet or tried to bend his head back, almost ensuring a neck injury.
I’m not naïve. I’ve played and/or watched football for more than two decades, and I know full well that it is a dangerous sport that demands scrutiny and regulation to ensure the safety of the men who play the game. However, a worrisome trend has developed in recent years, starting in the NFL and trickling down to the NCAA, of over-regulating on-field player movement to the point of causing more harm than good. Instead of adding more rules during the next offseason, perhaps the Rules Committee should rethink some current ones.
Watch the hit below, just for fun: