Eric Dickerson decries “trying to take the violence out of the NFL”

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Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson has joined the chorus of players, coaches and fans who oppose the NFL Competition Committee’s proposal to penalize runners for lowering their heads into tacklers.

I think it’s a bad rule,” Dickerson told Mike Freeman of CBS. “Mostly because it’s a natural reaction. You’ll never be able to police it. Running backs have to be able to protect themselves and doing that is protecting yourself.”

Dickerson said the league’s owners need to understand the physical nature of the game.

“The league is trying to take the violence out of the NFL,” Dickerson said. “That will never happen. What’s next, take the stiff arm away?”

It’s worth noting, however, that this proposal is at least in part a response to the concussion litigation that the NFL is facing from former players. And Dickerson is one of those former players suing the NFL. One of the frustrations that the league office and the team owners have had is that the same players who rip them when they try to take helmet-to-helmet contact out of the game are the players who turn around and sue the league for failing to take brain injuries out of the game.

That puts the owners in a tough spot. And that’s why it still looks likely that the owners will vote today to approve a rule that they know will be met with complaints from the very players they’re trying to protect.

61 responses to “Eric Dickerson decries “trying to take the violence out of the NFL”

  1. My respects to Dickerson. I’m so glad Adrian Cheaterson fell short of breaking his record. The RB who does needs to be a clean Football player who doesn’t take performance enhancers.

  2. Lawsuits and lawyers. Need I say more. I liked football better in the eighty’s and nineties.

  3. Its sad that football players develop such debilitating injuries especially of the mind. I love the sport and I wont stop watching even if it does become flag football. Player safety should be first.

  4. This all boils down to the NFL being fearful of lawsuits.

    When I go whitewater rafting I sign a piece of paper that states that I understand the risks of doing so, and that I may get injured or even die, even though I did everything that was taught to me about safety before we started. Football players should have the risks of playing the game taught to them, and then have them sign the release form before they sign their contract. Done.

    Now go lower your head while running.

  5. I’m not the biggest fan of this helmet rule, although I do support some of the other safety measures. But more to the point: why the hell do people keep asking all these old guys their opinions? It is impossible for me to quantify just how little I care about Erick Dickerson’s opinion about anything, including this. These guys don’t have any more skin in the game at this point than I do.

  6. The league is protecting itself because explayers are suing the NFL for their head injuries. It is a reaction that any business would make. Unfortunate yes- but I do understand what the NFL is doing from a business standpoint.

  7. I believe Dickerson is correct with the Helmet … it’s a reaction & lowering a shoulder into someone drops the head naturally.

    STIFF ARM ! – The stiff-arm is something they should look at though! Why is it illegal for lineman or any other player throw a hand in someones face-mask, but when a runner has the ball they are allowed to?

    The stiff-arm itself shouldn’t be illegal, but pushing or pull on the face-mask should be illegal for all players!

  8. Everybody likes player safety for monetary reasons. Everybody -even John York- likes the physical nature of football. As long as the discussion is about rules to protect players from what they do best no one will ever be satisfied. The point has been made before: when mankind is capable of getting people on the moon somebody should be able to come up with better helmets.

  9. I hate this rule with a passion…but I understand why the NFL wants it.

    This all lies at the feet of players…present and former.

    They knew the risks. Who wouldn’t? The truth is if they were told that if they play football there would be a 50-50 chance that they would die by 50, they would play anyway.

    Because they want the money.

    Personally, I think that in order to register for the draft, they should be advised of the risks and made to sign a waver.

  10. 3rd down and 8 to go, the 49ers have their famous “drum circle” defense on the field to counter the Ravens “please may I have a first down” offense with ribbons and bonnets option…..

    Just a sample of what the Super Bowl will look like 10 years from now

  11. Why don’t we put the players in skirts and have and change the name of the league to the National Flag Football League?

    Could just as well get rid of the running back position all together then and go to a passing only league.

  12. I’ve been a diehard football fan for over a decade now. That said… I confessed to my son last night that my new love is the NBA. With all due respect to the commissioner, but the nfl is becoming more of a girlie sport.

    Instead of taking the fun out of the sport why can’t they just take some of the money they make from ridiculous ticket prices and invest in better more safer equipment.

  13. This proposed rule is a joke. By the time Goodell is done the game of baseball will be more physical. Grown men aren’t interested in watching a purely finesse type of activity, if so we’d all be glued to our TVs for the national figure skating championships.

    All jobs carry different types of health risks. Half the country sits at a computer for 8-10 hours per day, literally subtracting years from their lives. But how many employers are requiring their employees to stand at work? We all do what we need to do to pay the bills.

    These players do not need to play the game of football; any one of them can walk away at anytime. If Goodell wants to earn his $30 million salary he should spend his time developing a way to inform the players of the risks they are accepting by playing this game and then let each player decide what they want to do. These guys are 20+ years old they can think for themselves.

  14. I find it fascinating that every player that comes out against this rule gets an article lauding him while arguably the best player of all, Jim Brown, comes out in favor of the rule and not a peep is heard on this site.

    Agenda, anyone?

  15. Maybe the NFL is just purposing some of these changes to get players that are apart of the lawsuit to come out and make comments like these on record.

  16. Don’t think a dichotomy exists in this matter just because Dickerson disagrees with the rule change while an active litigant in the concussion lawsuits.

    My understanding of the concussion litigation is that players believe that the NFL (individual teams and the entity as a whole) didn’t react to information they had already possessed about the harm concussions have on players’ brains and should have provided a safer work place by providing this information to players so they may fully understand the risks, creating concussion protocols similar to that of today (rather than telling players that just got their head rung to shake it off and get back in there and then denying compensation for injuries ) and even make/consider rule changes the likes of which is being discussed at this year’s owner’s meeting.

    Had the League and teams made a good faith effort in any of the above measures or others, then Dickerson’s complaint may come off as disingenuous. However, in this instance it appears that the League is making up for past misdeeds not with good faith effort to act based on the best interests of the players’ safety (because if that is the case, we would all be watching flag football 8 months a year) but rather as the foundation of an argument that can be later used in court to defend against litigation.

  17. I can’t help but feel the answer to this is in rugby. Those leagues have been around for over 100 years and equally deal with faster and bigger players. Are they being sued? How do the regulate head injury? My very amateur observation is that it is not some out of control issue like the NFL but I could be wrong. However if anyone argues that removing helmets would destroy the game is wrong. Rugby hits are insanely fun to watch, and safe(r). Plus players endorsement revenue would skyrocket if the had better facial recognition.

  18. He can thank his fellow retired players who are suing the NFL because they claim they didn’t know concussions were bad for you.

  19. I love football, watched it as soon as I could sit and played it as soon as I could run but it pains me greatly to see this happen.

    I understand it is our society, when something gets successful eventually litigation enters. Litigation and the NFL should not be mixed. The NFLPA should not exist. Players are in a dangerous profession.

  20. Football is going to be so awesome soon. I wonder if rugby players file concussion lawsuits…?

  21. There hasn’t been a Jets, Revis or Ryan story in the last 15 minutes on PFT.

    Lets get on that and get it corrected. Thanks.

  22. dickerson is an idiot, he knew the dangers of playing football and decided to do it anyway. he needs to choose a side he wants to sue but says the leagues answer is ridiculous. he wants it both ways sorry and Emmitt is the all time leading rusher I don’t see him crying after 15 years of playing.

  23. Here is a thought:

    How about telling government to go away, and that players can “sign off” before they ever play, that they understand there is an inherent risk in a physical game and you could get concussions, you could have long term issues. Or you could not. Just like skiing, parachuting, lion hunting, swimming in crocodile infested waters, walking in lightening storms, etc.

    How about freedom to do what you choose? If you don’t like the risk, go be an accountant?

    We have got to be the most idiotic people on this earth.

  24. The rules will not stop the suits. The league is not being sued because football is too dangerous. They are being sued because they did not fully disclose the known risks to the players. Without having knowledge of the known risks, players could not have possibly made an informed decision to play. These new world, silver spoon owners who took over daddy’s business and their dopey lackey are killing the golden goose for no reason.

  25. At what point do we deem games to dangerous to allow kids to play the game? Are we so determined to take potential injuries out of the sport that the game itself becomes too tame to hold the attention of fans? Those political correct advocates that are on the bandwagon to adjust our lives to the point that we will be given a plan of the day for our diet to what games we will be allowed to play.

  26. So if a RB jumps into the air prior to being tackled, would the defended get a 15 yd penalty for hitting a defenseless player? Plus the defender would get fined $20 grand a shot.

    This may also mean a return for Herschel Walker, he used to run backwards at the defenders.

  27. It’s a violent sport and that’s a huge chunk of the appeal. If you’re going to turn oranges into apples, you’d better be darn sure everybody likes apples. And that’s the part of the equation Goodell and the NFL seem completely clueless about. Their entire premise is that the sport will remain hugely popular regardless how much the essence of the game is changed. I’m not at all certain of that. I see a game looming where there’ll be no kick returns, with drives passively starting at pre-determined spots on the field, where any sort of hard hit will draw 15-yard penalties and/or ejections. I can’t say that excites me at all.

  28. Its amazing to me some of the siplicity of some of the posters on here. ” players wear skirts, pass league, cant remove violence”. Do you realize what the NFL is trying to protect? If these lawsuits are succesful it could very well wipe out the league. They have to make changes to show they are taking any means possible to protect the players health. The NFL is smart in proposing some of these ideas. The NFLPA and players ridicule these ideas like the lowering of the helmets,wearing pads in general, which play into the NFL’s hands. The can then show they were trying to make it safer and the players didnt want to be part of it and new the risks. I love the old style football but am open to some changes if it means the league will be here for the forseeable future.

  29. Quit saying the league is being sued because they didn’t fully disclose how dangerous football can be. You might get hit in the head really hard, it might hurt, do you still wanna play? I mean I know jocks are stupid but most of these graduated from college if they didn’t know the dangers they should stay home with mommy.

  30. So the guy is suing the league for head trauma and the league not telling them about the risks but he also decries not running his head in stuff. Here’s your cake and… eat it.

  31. am i the only person who knows the difference between “trucking” and “spearing”?

    defense isn’t allowed to use their helmet as a weapon, why should the offense? and no, i’m not some fatass that sits around playing Madden. i play this sport, and i don’t understand why we’re discussing something that will RARELY get called. people are scared to death of change, it’s hilarious to read everyone making the exact same point, thinking they just said something really insightful lmao.

  32. This is a violent game which everyone knows coming into it. Instead of taking the hits out of the game we should lower players salaries, lower ticket prices and if player gets a concussion they will have to sit out 6 wks be re evaluated b4 returning and a 2nd concussion wld result in being placed on injured reserve for yr. An appointed league doctor/specialist who is impartial to team will be placed on each sideline to monitor all players throughout game not just when a player is knocked out for signs or symptoms of concussions. A player who receives 4 concussions in a career will be forced to retire and team will not be penalized for salary cap implications. This will protect both the sport and player by limiting number of concussions per season and career which should save the integrity of both player and game. By paying players less and increasing roster spots perhaps to allow for more depths in case a player is lost will still allow owners to make large profits. Players are way over paid while average income family suffers from high ticket and merchandising prices. where is the NFLFA…NFL Fans Associstion to represent the people who actually pay the salaries and for stadiums throughout the league?

  33. Just when the Buccaneers were looking to “Join the Fight!” indicated by their Marketing strategy by Raymond James Stadium. May need to remove their bounty program now.

  34. justintuckrule says:Mar 20, 2013 10:27 AM

    The rules will not stop the suits. The league is not being sued because football is too dangerous. They are being sued because they did not fully disclose the known risks to the players. Without having knowledge of the known risks, players could not have possibly made an informed decision to play. These new world, silver spoon owners who took over daddy’s business and their dopey lackey are killing the golden goose for no reason.


    Trust me, everyone who’s ever played football past peewee has been told how dangerous football is. There’s also the fact that it’s obviously dangerous lol no one needs to be told that getting hit in the head a lot is bad for your brain. And if you need to be told that, you’re probably not intelligent enough to live to an age old enough to be allowed to play football professionally.

  35. Dickerson is clearly an idiot if he’s saying that and he’s suing the NFL for brain damage at the same time.

    Here’s the easy answer: Have all players sign waivers against their right to sue the NFL for brain injuries. Then they can headbutt each other 1000 times in a row and have 10 concussions in one game and still be allowed on the field, for all I (or the NFL) cares.

    Would that satisfy Eric Dickerson?

  36. The rule is supposed to prevent running backs from using the top of their helmet as a weapon outside of the tackle box. It’s not meant to prevent running backs from lowering their pads and helmet to protect themselves when running through traffic.

    So why is everyone pissed off?

    Because we have no confidence in the refs abilities to enforce the rule correctly and consistently.

    If the rule is written so that everyone can understand the rare situations in which it should be called, and we believed that the refs would only call the penalty in those rare situations, this would be much more of a non-issue.

    I know the NFL has approved having some full-time refs, and they’re putting other plans together to improve the quality of the officiating. Until we see improved results on the field, however, any proposed rule change like this is going to create a snow*-storm of negative feedback.

    *I think profanity gets your comment filtered, so instead of the word I wanted to use, I chose a different four letter word starting with ‘S’ that you have to shovel.

  37. intequals6 says:
    Mar 20, 2013 11:06 AM
    defense isn’t allowed to use their helmet as a weapon, why should the offense?

    You beat me to it. The only thing I would add is whatever they decide on, make sure it is the same for both sides of the ball. If the offense can lead with the head, then so can the defense. Don’t handcuff one side of the game while giving the other free reign.

    At this point time, defense might as well be a bunch of telephone poles placed out on the field. It is about what the league is allowing them to do now.

  38. Just as a devils advocate, how can the players sign a waiver for injuries the science knew nothing about. Because that’s what happened here. And to this day, very little is known exactly what causes these brain injuries. Right or wrong, labor laws in this country protect the workers. For those that watch it, the UFC will have these similar problems in the years to come. (Boxing has escaped this because boxers don’t work for a specific company)

  39. The ends of the football are far too pointed and could hurt if not caught correctly or bruise an arm. They should make them more rounded. Its far too dangerous.

  40. It was predictable that once offensive players were included in Goodell’s “Kill the Sport” crusade there would be whining by offensive players.
    Offensive players have always considered themselves to be special and exempt from penalties, fines and suspensions.
    Just for the record: I hate all the new rules, and Goodell should be fired. However, it’s about time the league worried about the health and welfare of defensive players.

  41. I put in this comment around 9:30-“The documentary was called ‘The Violent World of Sam Huff”, not ‘The Passive World of Sam Huff'” and some a-hole deleted it. Why?

  42. Its sad that football players develop such debilitating injuries especially of the mind. I love the sport and I wont stop watching. I wish they had to do “spirit hands” while running routes. That would be pretty. Players self esteem should be first.

  43. Not sure how I feel about the NFL’s efforts to make the game “safer” but I know one thing….

    Those old Rams unis are as cool as the current ones are ugly.

  44. Interesting comment from Dickerson. I will never forget that he once said “I wear every pad on every part of my body that I can.” I’m not hating on Dickerson, but he really said that when he was playing.

  45. @nickmangold – don’t shoot the messenger bro. I’m on your side. I’m just correcting the big misunderstanding being perpetuated. Players aren’t suing the league because its too dangerous. They are suing because the league didn’t tell them that there were severe permanent effects of concussions when the league possessed this information and failed to disclose it. The argument that “big jock should have known better” is a loser.

    I’m not taking sides. I’m just saying that nfl will not avoid future lawsuits with the rule changes.

  46. I’m fairly sure the union will not allow the players to sign a waiver of this type. It’s not in the best interest of any unioned workforce to ever allow the ownership to institute anything that would eliminate the owners’/companies’ liability in regard to workplace injury.

    The league can’t say the players are paid enough or that they should know the risks before they start playing either. It doesn’t work like that. The court of law may not see it like that.

    So the league is forced to do the only thing it has the power to do, changing the rules of how the game is played. It sucks, but that’s what they have to do or the league may not be around in 30 years.

  47. Honestly, how many of these “lawsuits” brought on by former players or the ones joining class action lawsuits, are simply because they mismanaged their money and now they don’t have any more of it?

  48. I didn’t grind my feet on Charlie Murphy’s couch…of course I grinded my feet on Charlie Murphy’s couch !

  49. I played football up into college, and there was never a time where I was surprised that I or someone else got hurt. Football is a contact sport we know the risks we play it because we love it. The running back position is hard enough. this rule is actually gonna cause more injuries.

  50. The nerds have taken over the NFL including the rules. Things happen very quickly in football and it’s not that easy for players to control exactly how they collide into each other at high speeds.

    It really feels like these rules are being recommended by guys who have never fastened a chin strap and tackled anyone in their life.

  51. It’s a sad day in The NFL. I don’t always agree with Mike Mayock. But, I certainly agree with him on his assessment.
    The Owners and the NFL are trying anything to avoid
    any further Lawsuits with the regard to former players injuries caused by the contact involved with head injuries.
    But, what’s next. Lawsuits involved with poor knee pads and other protective geer meant to protect players but
    for their injuries must sue because of the injuries that happened anyway.
    There isn’t a single rule that is going to do that. It may decrease the amount of sustained injuries, but in the end. There will always be the risk of injuries. It is the nature of contact sports.
    There may be some profit made by some/many Slick Lawyers and some monies gained by injured players.
    But, what is the real cost? The game is going to suffer the most damage here.
    I am a great fan, of Jeff Fisher. I understand, the importance of protecting the players and the best they can by making rules to help prevent these kind of injuries. But, the best thing to do is make better tools.
    The Helmets, need the right R & D (Research & Development).
    There has to be a better design and better materials put into the helmets. The style of playing and flagging of teams/players are only going to make for a mockery of the game. Because, of the ambiguous calls given at any given play and any given time of any game. How are they going to police these ambiguous calls. They will need Lawyers in the replay both or upstairs to review unsubstantiated calls or if they are legit or not.
    I believe, the NFL went out of their way to provide a rule to protect themselves through the intended purpose of protection of the players.
    I can see why it appears Dickerson is playing both sides of the fence. He knows it is a bad rule. The players do to.
    But, they all know something had to be done to protect the players. So, the rule was made. It’s a bad rule for the right reasons.
    Players are still going to get hurt, for many the damage was already done. It may slow down the number of injuries, but it hasn’t resolved the real issue.
    The issue is the Helmets aren’t designed with the comprehensive design needed. Until then, know one is being protected. Just the elution of the effort on behalf of the league. It is an attempt to do something, that’s it.
    The game is going to suffer. Games will be decided by more ambiguous calls and the former injured players are just going to see this as a sad attempt to give them some peace of mind. Not.
    It’s a sad day. I don’t think this is something to blame Jeff Fisher or the Owners actually. This is an half ass answer to a complicated problem that isn’t going away for many for a long time.
    Unfortunately, many players have suffered and will. But, this should be considered as part of the sport. It always has, but now the lawsuits and the lawyers are involved with the purposes of helping their clients and themselves.
    Maybe someday, we can look back at this and see what it was really all about. It’s not always about what it appears.

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