Myles Garrett, you just can’t hit someone in the head with a helmet.
I have mixed feelings about fighting in the NFL. Obviously fighting is bad — people get hurt enough playing football without including fisticuffs. It’s a penalty and a fine if you start or participate in a fistfight during an NFL game. It hurts the team when a player fights, in the form of possible penalty yards and missed games due to suspension. It also hurts the player, in the form of a bad reputation that can lower their value, and fines that cost real money. The players have too much at stake to be endangering their team’s season and their own career to settle a score.
But I understand why they do it. Football is an aggressive sport, and to play it well, you have to learn how to direct your aggression into your play. But to play that way, one also needs to develop and maintain those aggressive instincts, and restraining them within the often unclear rules of the game is easier said than done.
Adding to the difficulty is that players are often loaded up with painkillers and frequently suffer from trauma-induced mental issues, which can affect their decision-making processes and judgement. Not only do they have impaired judgement, players will say rude, often horrific things to each other on the field to distract their opponents and gain a competitive edge.
With all this in mind, I understand why Garrett tried to fight Mason Rudolph on Thursday night. Rudolph started it, trying to take off Garrett’s helmet, and a divisional game with serious implications for the postseason can easily get chippy, especially at the end.
But you can’t hit someone in the head with a helmet. Beyond the irony of using a head protector as a weapon, it is incredibly dangerous to bludgeon someone, especially if you’re the size of an NFL defensive end. Garrett could have seriously injured Rudolph, who had already been concussed only a couple weeks previously. The fact that criminal charges were discussed should show the severity of the act.
As much as I think it’s stupid that NFL players fight, I understand that it happens and as a Saints fan, I hate Roger Goodell and the NFL’s punitive system as much as anyone. But the six-plus game suspension that Garrett received is certainly a reasonable response to an incredibly dangerous attack.