The death of Junior Seau creates a Catch-22 not for the Commissioner but for those who play and follow the game. We can’t openly fret about the possible connection between football and the final act of a former player haunted by depression while also sniping at Roger Goodell for his efforts to make the game safer.
Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, speaking to Clark Judge of CBSSports.com the night before the funeral of former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, echoed a sentiment that was articulated by former Seau teammate Rodney Harrison on October 17, 2010, the day on which the NFL was rocked by multiple helmet hits occurring within minutes of each other.
“Instead of money,” Fouts said, “I think the punishment should be playing time because then you get into peer pressure and hurting the general cause of the team. And that’s what players don’t want to do. You fine these guys a couple of grand, and that’s nothing these days. So take away what’s most dear to them, and that’s playing.”
Harrison said that he would budget for fines, regarding them as a cost of doing business. Once Rodney Harrison was suspended, however, the NFL has his attention.
Thus, regardless of any additional changes to the rules that may be made, enforcing the current rules would be aided significantly by having a greater willingness to suspend players.
In this same regard, officials should be more willing to eject players. Despite periodic threats from the league office that players will be booted for applying illegal hits, the officials typically take that action only when the player engages in a grossly blatant violation of the rules. If there’s a real risk of getting tossed during a game — and of getting suspended for a future game — players will think twice before “jacking up” an opponent in a manner that violates the rules.