Tre­vathan’s hit on Adams shows tar­get­ing rule needed

Waterloo Region Record - - SPORTS - Adam Kil­gore

Na­tional Foot­ball League ref­er­ees have the power to eject play­ers for vi­o­lent, il­le­gal hits to the head. This off-sea­son, the NFL em­pha­sized this power, re­mind­ing of­fi­cials in writ­ing that “egre­gious” hits to the head should lead to au­to­matic and im­me­di­ate dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

To re­duce dan­ger­ous plays, play­ers need in­cen­tive, and the NFL’s point of em­pha­sis pro­vided it.

Thurs­day night pro­vided hor­ri­fy­ing ev­i­dence the NFL needs to do more. In the third quar­ter of the Green Bay Pack­ers’ shel­lack­ing of the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers passed to wide re­ceiver Da­vante Adams over the mid­dle. The Bears had Adams wrapped up, spin­ning to the ground.

At full sprint, line­backer Danny Tre­vathan low­ered his head, leapt from his feet and smashed into Adams’ face mask with the crown of his hel­met. The hit was purely un­nec­es­sary vi­o­lence. It did noth­ing to fur­ther halt Adams’s progress, be­cause he had been stopped. It only served to hurt and po­ten­tially in­jure Adams.

Adams’ mouth­piece flew. As he lay still on the ground, play­ers on both teams waved for train­ers. Med­i­cal per­son­nel strapped Adams to a board, car­ried him off the field and placed him in an am­bu­lance. The Pack­ers later tweeted that Adams was con­scious, had feel­ing in all ex­trem­i­ties and had been taken to a hospi­tal for fur­ther test­ing.

Tre­vathan’s dirty, il­le­gal hit went far be­yond “egre­gious.” He will surely be fined, and for­mer head of of­fi­cials Mike Pereira said on Twit­ter he would sus­pend Tre­vathan. But of­fi­cials al­lowed Tre­vathan to fin­ish the game.

If a ref­eree’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the rule made it pos­si­ble for Tre­vathan to fin­ish the game, even if the league de­cides it was the wrong in­ter­pre­ta­tion af­ter the fact, the rule needs to be changed and made stronger. The point of em­pha­sis was a good idea. In prac­tice, we now know it wasn’t enough.

There is a ready-made model the NFL can use. The NFL should bor­row from, if not out­right duplicate, the col­le­giate tar­get­ing rule. When a player is called for an il­le­gal hit to an op­po­nent’s up­per body, he is flagged 15 yards and ejected; if the hit hap­pens in the sec­ond half, the of­fender also misses the first half of his next game. All tar­get­ing calls are re­viewed on re­play, to en­sure an in­no­cent tack­ler or blocker isn’t thrown out.

The col­lege tar­get­ing rule pro­hibits “forcible con­tact to the head or neck area of a de­fence­less op­po­nent ... with the hel­met, fore­arm, hand, fist, el­bow or shoul­der.” For the call to be made, the hit must in­clude the de­fen­sive player launch­ing, lead­ing with his hel­met or low­er­ing his head be­fore at­tack­ing with the crown of his hel­met. De­fence­less play­ers can be one who’s just thrown the ball, caught a pass or tied up by other tack­lers, just kicked, just caught or about to catch a punt, on the ground, ob­vi­ously out of play or be­ing blocked from his blind side. The rule also states, “when in ques­tion, it’s a foul.”

The NFL can tweak the lan­guage. But the ex­am­ple Tre­vathan pro­vided demon­strates the need for a sim­i­lar sys­tem in the NFL. Had ref­er­ees au­to­mat­i­cally re­viewed Tre­vathan’s hit, they would have seen the clear egre­gious­ness and ejected him. In real time, they threw a flag that, be­cause it hap­pened near the goal-line, cost the Bears only four yards.

Fines, and even the threat of sus­pen­sion, are not enough to dis­suade play­ers from dan­ger­ous hits. They are wired to win in the mo­ment. A greater chance of sus­pen­sion en­forced by clearly writ­ten rules, as op­posed to in-the-mo­ment in­ter­pre­ta­tion by of­fi­cials, would help. The col­lege rule can be frus­trat­ing, but it has led to fewer il­le­gal hits. That’s a wor­thy trade-off.

MATT LUDTKE, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Green Bay Pack­ers’ Da­vante Adams, cen­tre, is hit by Chicago Bears’ Adrian Amos and Danny Tre­vathan in Thurs­day night’s game in Green Bay.

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