It’s always strange, as a forever-doomed Bears fan, to comment on Packers fans bitching about the one call in 3,000 they didn’t get. Which didn’t matter anyway, because the Packers ended up winning, 30-28, when the 49ers decided that 59 minutes of man-coverage was enough and to let Davante Adams run free for the last one was fine.
Still, this is criminal, and it’s also criminal that Adams was allowed to play after it:
The easy comparison is to sketch out how serious the NFL has been about taunting, or was last week (whether they backed off this week or the crackdown worked... more evidence needed) and letting this one go. And the initial response to that is to say that every officiating team misses a call here and there. Taunting, whatever the NFL’s fuzzy definition of it is, is obviously easier to spot than anything at the speed of play.
The problem is that hits to the head, especially ones this egregious and vicious, can’t afford to be missed. It only takes one to alter a player’s career and life. And though the penalty flag would come too late to stop that particular hit, the demonstration that it would be enforced might prevent the next one. Especially if hits to the head resulted in automatic ejections, which they should. Or at least that’s the idea. It’s a bad look all around.
Secondly, how was Adams allowed to continue after this? He was out cold. As punitive as it might seem to a player who’s only been victimized, you would think being knocked unconscious rules you out for the game automatically.
Football fans make a bargain with themselves and the players they follow, along with a suspension of disbelief. We know the game is inherently dangerous, and we know anyone can get hurt badly on any play. We chug along anyway, as most injuries are (sadly) just part of the rhythm of the game. There’s no way to get around them. And most of them aren’t life-altering. Though every year we’re becoming more and more aware of how many are, and that’s why you probably know more and more people who have stopped watching. They can’t make that bargain anymore.
But it’s different when we see a player motionless on the field, and he’s back out there 10 minutes later. You can’t avoid the uneasiness because you know that he has no business out there and it might get a whole lot worse. You can’t escape that feeling of contributing to the destruction of someone’s life, which the NFL counts on for business.
It doesn’t help when Sunday Night Football analyst Cris Collinsworth sees a shot of Adams on the sideline after the play and says, “Good to see he’s OK.” How the fuck do you know, Cris? You don’t, and trying to rubber stamp the league’s policies on this isn’t going to change anything. Perhaps on a national platform with the biggest audience, that’s a time to say this isn’t right and changes have to be made to keep players just that much safer in a game where they’re never truly safe.
But that’s not Collinsworth’s job, in the same fashion that every new stadium the SNF crew broadcasts from gets lavished with praise from Al Michaels even as those stadiums rob cities blind. They’re part of the grift, after all.