Hall of Famer Mike Ditka has a great idea for getting the helmet-to-helmet hits out of the game of football.
Take away the facemasks.
“I said a long time ago if you want to change the game take the mask off the helmet,” Ditka told a gathering of reporters on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. “It will change the game a lot. If you want to change the game and get it back to where people aren’t striking with the head and using the head as a weapon, take the mask off the helmet.
“A lot of pretty boys aren’t going to stick their face in there. If you’re going to take hitting out of football, you might as well just call it soccer. That’s what I believe. A lot of people will be disappointed I said that, but football is what it is. [Vince] Lombardi said it a long time ago. Football is not a contact game. Dancing is a contact game. Football is a collision sport.”
Actually, we think Lombardi said, “Scratching your crotch on national television is a contact game.”
The balance between big hits and long-term player health has become a major topic of discussion recently, with the league imposing fines in an apparent effort to reverse the culture of the kill shot.
“[Y]ou can’t legislate hitting out of football,” Ditka said. “It’s impossible. The hit that Hines [Ward] made [against Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers] was a complete legitimate hit. People will say, ‘Well, you don’t do that.’ But it’s football. It’s always been football. We did that in the ’60s, the ’50s, the ’40s. It’s a blindside hit, but it’s a hit.”
On this point, Ditka sounds like he agrees with Troy Polamalu’s belief that the real motivation isn’t promoting player health but saving money.
“The first thing you’re taught as a defensive player is to put your head on a swivel,” Ditka said. “Don’t get caught in that position. If this would have happened 40 years ago, nobody cares. You’re making thousands of dollars. Now you’re making millions. So you’re losing players who are making that much money. You can’t afford that as organizations. That’s why they’re going to crack down.
“Football is a tough game. You hate to see anyone get hurt whether it was 50 years ago or now. I know what the commissioner is trying to do, but I don’t know if taking legal hits out of the game is going to make it any different.”