No doubt the turning of the tide for the Baltimore Ravens was the vicious hit on New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley that caused a fumble recovered by the Ravens. It was one familiar to New Orleans Saints fans and questions the true validity of player safety in the NFL.
Ridley was nailed by Ravens safety Bernard Pollard on a helmet to helmet hit which spun Ridley around and knocked him unconscious. Immediately after the hit you saw the signs as he spun around and his arms flailed outward and his legs turned to cooked spaghetti.
After laying on the field for some time, Ridley was brought to the sideline where he was likely diagnosed with a concussion and didn’t return to the game. It was a similar play that happened to Saints running back Pierre Thomas in the NFC Division Playoffs last year against the San Francisco 49ers.
Thomas was headed to the endzone on the Saints first drive of the game when safety Donte Whitner laid into him with a brutal helmet to helmet hit that knocked Thomas out and caused him to fumble the ball which the San Francisco 49ers recovered and was one of many turnovers that killed the Saints and Thomas was lost for the rest of the game.
Just like what happened with the hit on Thomas, Ridley’s hit sparked outrage on social media that the hit wasn’t flagged as one is for wide receivers on helmet to helmet contact.
The simple answer is one that I learned as Thomas lay on the field, the rules are different for running backs. No flags are thrown for helmet to helmet hits on running backs because they expected to have such contact when engaged with a large amount of players.
Running backs often will lower their head as they charge forward and it’s something that is to be expected when a tackle is being made. Wide receivers are considered to be different and any contact to the head is immediately flagged. So lives the hypocrisy that is the NFL.
I understand that the rules are meant to make the game safer, but those rules also need to be levied across the board. You can’t protect one group of players while leaving others out. Doing so creates partiality that could be used in lawsuits that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is desperately trying to avoid.
Translation is that you can’t say it’s okay to hit one player in the helmet and not another. To use one of my favorite phrases, “You can’t get a little bit pregnant.” It either needs to be all in or all out when concerning player safety.
With the season winding down I’m sure that the NFL will congregate to discuss the rules that need to be abandoned and ones that need to be added. Another thing I’m sure of is that while these type of hits will continue, the hipocrisy of player safety will also continue.