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Three attempts to define the term “killing the head”

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When stumped by the meaning of new sayings, I usually check UrbanDictionary.com.

But there’s no entry (yet) for”killing the head.”  So I’ve had to search elsewhere.

And, like many words on UrbanDictionary.com or in other more traditional collections of words and definitions, I’ve come up with three possible meanings.

The first comes from attorney Peter Ginsberg, who represents Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

“Killing the head wasn’t part of the bounty program, it wasn’t part of the pay-for-performance program.  It was a statistic that [defensive coordinator Gregg] Williams kept to show the players who was leading the team with good hard and direction-changing hits,” Ginsberg said on Tuesday’s PFT Live.  “He led the team in those sorts of tremendous hits, and if you look at his penalties for the year, he was one of the least penalized players.”

The second, far less unequivocal, definition comes from NFL senior V.P. of labor law and policy Adolpho Birch, who also appeared on Tuesday’s PFT Live.

“What does killing the head mean?” I asked.

“Well, I guess I would ask you that,” Birch said.  “What would it mean to you?”

After explaning that I doubt it refers to the commission of murder (especially since Vilma was listed by the Saints as having 62 of them in 2010), Birch continued without providing a definition.  “What I think is that there is a large body of material and evidence that discusses this program,” Birch said.  “The program was there, this is part of the terminology that was used.  It’s only one part of it.  There were several other terms that reflected these same sort of categories of the program.  And I think you’d do yourself a disservice by trying to identify specifically what one term is versus another.  I think you’re better advised to look at the overall program and understand this is what it meant.  And I think that any rational and sensible person upon reviewing the evidence comes to that conclusion.”

The third definition comes from a source with knowledge of the manner in which Williams privately has explained the term, but in light of the sensitivity of the subject requested not to be identified.  According to the source, Williams defines it to mean applying a helmet-to-helmet hit to a runner whose progress is in the process of otherwise being stopped.

So there you have it.  Three different definitions, one of which is slightly more problematic than the others.

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37 Responses to “Three attempts to define the term “killing the head””
  1. tjacks7 says: Jun 19, 2012 8:20 PM

    “Killing the head wasn’t part of the bounty program, it wasn’t part of the pay-for-performance program.”

    – Peter Ginsberg

    ———————-

    I think the bigger story here is that Ginsberg just said that there was a bounty program and there was a pay-for-performance program..

  2. Bearfan54 says: Jun 19, 2012 8:27 PM

    Killing the Head so the Body will die. thats what it means. Use your imagination to figure the rest out.

  3. austinwhodat says: Jun 19, 2012 8:33 PM

    It can’t mean helmet-to-helmet because that would imply that Vilma would have had 62 of those and would have surely been penalized. So it must mean something else.

  4. sjsuraider says: Jun 19, 2012 8:44 PM

    I refuse to believe that it means a helmet to helmet hit. And if that’s what NFL is trying to claim it means than how was Vilma not fined and suspended for having 62 helmet to helmet hits in one season.

  5. kiltherl says: Jun 19, 2012 8:56 PM

    Austinwhodat is absolutely right!

  6. mdd913 says: Jun 19, 2012 9:02 PM

    It cannot possibly mean a helmet-to-helmet hit or somebody would’ve been penalized for them.

    Look up how many times Vilma has been penalized for personal fouls in the 2009 through 2011 seasons. Here’s a hint, you can count them on one hand, and you’ll have three fingers left over.

  7. Matt says: Jun 19, 2012 9:16 PM

    Because a helmet to helmet hit is not illegal on a RB. See the Saints/SF game where Whitner hit Pierre Thomas with Helmet to Helmet. Totally legal. It is only a penalty when the player is in a defenceless position such as catching the ball.

  8. andersonae86 says: Jun 19, 2012 9:26 PM

    Helmet to helmet hits on RUNNING BACKS. Those are clean and legal hits people. Learn to read.

  9. andersonae86 says: Jun 19, 2012 9:27 PM

    Sorry runners. Still clean and legal.

  10. rabidmike says: Jun 19, 2012 9:28 PM

    Kill the head and the body will die, I mean get a life. It can refer to a snake or be use metaphorically to describe an organization. In football, it would probably refer to taking out a QB.

  11. monkeyboymotors says: Jun 19, 2012 9:30 PM

    did drew finally get his explanation ?

  12. hyzers says: Jun 19, 2012 9:34 PM

    sjsuraider says:
    Jun 19, 2012 8:44 PM
    I refuse to believe that it means a helmet to helmet hit. And if that’s what NFL is trying to claim it means than how was Vilma not fined and suspended for having 62 helmet to helmet hits in one season.

    ———————————————–

    Helmet to helmet hits are a lot like offensive lineman holding. It happens a lot but rarely gets called.

  13. deeppurple23 says: Jun 19, 2012 9:37 PM

    Gee, I can’t image how “payment” for a player using his helmet as a weapon or trying to cause a concussion would bring up a sensitive subject to the NFL. I guess all those lawsuits should be dismissed, then theses poor players can come back and headhunt some more…

  14. rabbdogg says: Jun 19, 2012 9:43 PM

    because he didnt do anything

  15. 2112ruler says: Jun 19, 2012 9:43 PM

    I think you forget that there currently is NO penalty for helmet-to-helmet hits on runners and/or non-defenseless players.

    Incidentally, this is why James Harrison being fined/suspended for hits to the Browns running back a year or two back was so puzzling – he wasn’t defenseless and it was on a running back, hence no penalty flag. Penalty came afterward in the form of a fine from the league.

    Rules like this need to be clarified and applied more equally for the betterment of all, but I after watching Vilma’s style of play, I don’t doubt he had 60+ helmet-to-helmet hits over the course of a year that weren’t penalized.

    Regardless, the definition as given by Gregg Williams to an anonymous somebody indicates that it’s a helmet-to-helmet hit. Listening to him say that certain players have had concussions recently and to be sure to kill the head of that same player support this.

  16. gbmickey says: Jun 19, 2012 9:50 PM

    Saint fans just live in denial. If you thoroughly read the article it discusses head to head which is legal when aball carrier is running down the field. For most here it is easy to interpet the meaning. Williams encouraged this by saying if you hit thehead enough the body will fail.

    i hope this post is acceptable to the moderator here. It seems when there is an easy explanation to a pot stiring article it gets deleted.

  17. dalucks says: Jun 19, 2012 9:53 PM

    The only way the NFL can prove to the general public that a bounty program exist is if they provide a document showing a Saints player actually getting paid for a tackle that cause an opposing player to get hurt. If that evidence does not exist then this is no more than a publicity stunt.
    Roger Goodell is trying to convict the Saints in the court of public opinion.

  18. halfie6 says: Jun 19, 2012 9:57 PM

    Maybe Vilma wasn’t penalized because helmet-to-helmet hits “on a runner” are, um, what’s that word… legal?

  19. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 19, 2012 9:59 PM

    Over imbibing of alcoholic beverages.

  20. bigbenh8tr says: Jun 19, 2012 10:03 PM

    They may not have been on a defenseless player, hence no penalties. And they weren’t enforced as much until 2010/2011

  21. rbell2123 says: Jun 19, 2012 10:08 PM

    Wait now come on guys we all know the saints players did nothing wrong and the league is just picking on them for no reason. Just ask all those Saint fans………… Wait yes they did and now when it’s time own your mistakes they all cry and whine. Bet they where not crying when collecting their money for those hits.

  22. fourthandafoot says: Jun 19, 2012 10:08 PM

    Why is it hard to believe he had at least 62 helmet to helmet hits? It’s not a penalty to hit a ballcarrier helmet to helmet when it’s ruled he’s able to defend himself. RB’s take a beating. How many times do you think Vilma went head to head against TE’s and FB’s in blocking situations? I think Vilma and his lawyer need to cut out this no proof nonsense.

  23. giantsfanlewis says: Jun 19, 2012 10:10 PM

    I hate the saints more then anyone on this site(but still not as much as I hate ne and the other teams in the nfc east) nut the killing the head and the body will die part of the speech is the part I was least concerned about. It’s quite simply saying if u take away the best thing a team can do, in san frans case running the ball, the team will fail. Just like if you shut down brees passing attack the saints are done. I was sickened by many things said during the speech but anyone with a quarter of a brain knows what killing the head and the body will die means in sports. It’s not sick, its not demented, its just saying take the biggest part of the team away and you win. This shouldn’t even need discussion.

  24. gotampabay52 says: Jun 19, 2012 10:13 PM

    Saint fans shut up and your players too… Williams admitted bounty was in place. Who dat yeah you dat f@#k cheated. Shut up and now theres a bounty on Brees league wide and its free for all and free…. Let the Brees hit the grass

  25. pacificnw7722 says: Jun 19, 2012 10:15 PM

    “kill the head and the body will die,” Brando at the end of Apocalypse Now…………

  26. retaeyssup says: Jun 19, 2012 10:46 PM

    Helmet to helmet hits are very legal depending on the game situation (ie, running backs/receivers running the ball). To me, killing the head means removing the quarterback from the game, or the offensive superstar.

  27. dogbart says: Jun 19, 2012 10:49 PM

    Killing the head is really killing their will or resolve. Hit them hard but legal and make the opposition question their resolve to fight to win.

  28. motobus says: Jun 19, 2012 10:51 PM

    As described in the Sean Pamphilon(sp?) audio release “kill the head” meant targeting the best player on the other team. In that audio Greg Williams talks about targeting Frank Gore when using this term.

    I think it is a reach to try to apply a literal translation to this.

  29. nerdyturdy says: Jun 19, 2012 11:16 PM

    Nice editorial, Florio!

    I’m with those who say “kill the head” means to take out the QB, who is the field general. This seems like an old military term to “take out the leader” so the rest of the army will fall apart. At least, that’s how they made it sound in Braveheart. :P

  30. ProFootballZap.com says: Jun 19, 2012 11:20 PM

    Definition #3 is the correct one….

  31. crabboil says: Jun 19, 2012 11:45 PM

    LOL! So basically all of his solo tackles in 2010 were helmet to helmet hits. No one actually believes that, do they?

  32. marat28051988 says: Jun 20, 2012 12:42 AM

    Goodell the liar and the deceiver hooted. Only this time in the lie it got confused. And fans of bucs, panthers and falcons only also need to pray on the stupid QB as their dreams broke. It is direct it is a pity them
    very strange why other fans don’t criticize league for lies? I remember here everything as women cried: saints liars also should be punished” and now the lIES league and all says lies why that are silent?
    As speak at us in Russia it is possible to trust only to God well still to Valera Karpin but not Goodell

  33. spankymcwanky says: Jun 20, 2012 1:51 AM

    What I find most telling is that the NFL just admitted that they did a half-hearted job at investigating this whole thing. Really? You didn’t want to find qualitative data on the terms you eventually used as the fodder for your witch-hunt? I see something very wrong there. I wonder what else they decided on which to make assumptions or to unprofessionally mishandle? But I guess when you have an agenda the actual facts may get in the way of making your point.

  34. sf944 says: Jun 20, 2012 1:56 AM

    “I refuse to believe that it means a helmet to helmet hit.”

    I have to agree. According the proof all Saints had nearly 500 “kill the head” tackles in one season.
    There weren’t nearly 500 head 2 head tackles in the entire NFL in 2010.

  35. crabboil says: Jun 20, 2012 6:56 AM

    And those that say Kill The Head means taking out the QB don’t have much of a clue either. Crunch the numbers.

    That would mean that approximately four times a game, in every game of 2010, Vilma took out the QB…

  36. darkhornet79 says: Jun 20, 2012 10:39 AM

    sf944 said: “I have to agree. According the proof all Saints had nearly 500 “kill the head” tackles in one season.
    There weren’t nearly 500 head 2 head tackles in the entire NFL in 2010.”

    Indeed. All people have to do is use a little logic. When you see how many hits Vilma had that qualified for this mysterious ‘Kill the head’ category, logic would dictate that it means something significantly less dastardly than the NFL is trying to paint.

  37. irishdawg42 says: Jun 20, 2012 11:58 AM

    “”2112ruler says: Jun 19, 2012 9:43 PM
    Incidentally, this is why James Harrison being fined/suspended for hits to the Browns running back a year or two back was so puzzling – he wasn’t defenseless and it was on a running back, hence no penalty flag. Penalty came afterward in the form of a fine from the league.””

    Not sure why the Saints bounty goes back to a Steelers player, but…It was a “defenseless Wide Receiver” Mohamed Massaquoi that caused this controversy 2112ruler. That play was the reason for the new rule against defenseless receivers. The penalty was for the blatant style used on the tackle that was not defined to a referee at the time as far as a penalty is concerned. However, the players were warned about helmet to helmet hits prior to this occurring. Harrison wasn’t the poster boy for these hits at first(in fact 3 others were fined the same weekend as this first instance), but his reluctance to change the way he “tackled” made him the poster boy going forward.

    Running backs already have the ball in hand and therefore can “defend” themselves against an oncoming hit. A receiver with his head on a swivel as the ball is coming into their gut renders them defenseless against seeing these types of hits and was the cause of many of the concussion issues of recent study.

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