The day after a conference championship game, there is an avalanche of coverage, usually sticking to the main storylines. But other than this New York Magazine story, it's odd that no one had made much of a fuss over two Giants saying they specifically targeted Kyle Williams because he had a history of concussions. And maybe, just maybe, that ruthless game plan played a part in Williams's two backbreaking fumbles.
Jacquian Williams, who forced the ball loose on the overtime fumble, told assembled media that "we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him out of the game."
Devin Thomas, who recovered both fumbles, told the Star-Ledger "he's had a lot of concussions. We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on that guy.' [Tyler] Sash did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up."
We can debate all day how much of a role first-half hits played in second-half gaffes. As a return man, if you're not dazed at the end of a game featuring 12 Giants punts and 4 kickoffs, you've been doing something wrong. But it's hard to get away from the implication that in a league obsessed with concussions, concussions were being exploited for field position.
There are two ways to read the Giants' words, and they're not mutually exclusive. One is that to the Giants, Williams's concussion history served as prima facie evidence that he's soft, or fragile (and this tells you more about how pro athletes view concussions than anything else), and could be intimidated or rattled with a clean, solid hit. The second is that there was a concerted effort to hit a player where it hurts: in the brain function. Not only might Williams have shied away from a helmet-smashing tackle, but he might've been knocked out of the game altogether.
NY Mag wonders if the fact that no beat writers are talking about it means that it's a commonplace tactic. I don't know if anyone would admit it in so many words, but it would be dumb to think otherwise. If a strategy is effective and within the rules and you don't utilize it, you're probably not the most successful football team. And it's naive to pretend that players have some sort of ethical obligation not to target the soft spongy neural tissue of others. They've already shown they play with no regard for their own long-term health, so to expect them to look out for each other is asking too much.
Here are things we know: once you get a concussion, you're more likely to get another. The more concussions you have, the shorter your functional life span. Once you have a concussion history, it becomes common knowledge among the men tasked with taking you out. This is football, and the players and fans have a silent bargain that we're going to live with this and not talk about it more than we have to.
Did Giants Strategically Concuss Kyle Williams? [New York Magazine]