Todd Hartley: The return of Titus Asolis
November 7, 2002
The following is a copy of a letter sent to Paul Tagliabue, the commissioner of the National Football League.
Dear Commissioner Tagliabue,
God bless you and the other NFL officials who finally decided to crack down on the rampant violence going on in your game. If you had allowed it to persist one more week, you would have lost me as a fan.
By fining a sure hall-of-famer and exemplary citizen like Cowboys safety Darren Woodson and a number of other kamikaze safeties around your league, you have taught the youth of America a valuable lesson in how to play the game correctly. You have shown them that it is not OK to make a bone-jarring tackle to stop a big play, possibly causing a turnover and swinging the momentum of the game.
A self-proclaimed “authority” on the NFL, some broadcaster named John Madden, made the argument that the blame should go to the offensive coordinators who send their receivers across the middle of the field and the quaterbacks who throw the ball to them. I totally disagree. Safeties need to respect receivers’ personal space.
Everybody loves to see a team throw the bomb. Sure, it may be hazardous to the health of wideouts, but as you have shown, the NFL can take steps to fix that. If you make defensive backs financially responsible for not hurting an opposing player, teams will be free to take shots right down the middle of the field whenever they please.
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In fact, if you start levying fines and suspensions more quickly, teams could even use that to their advantage offensively. Right now, penalties usually aren’t even called on most of the plays that have been incurring fines. The punishment only comes after the play has been reviewed, days after it actually took place.
If you give referees the ability to review a play on the field as they would during a coach’s challenge and immediately suspend the guilty player, offenses could try to foul out defensive backs they way they might in basketball. At the very least it would condition safeties to approach each situation with the proper degree of timidity.
My only advice to you would be to do more to eradicate violence in your league. Fining safeties is a good start, but there are plenty of chances for people to get hurt on almost every play. To do away with this, I have asked in prior letters that you make your league a flag-football or two-hand-touch league. As you’ve indicated, you have no interest in doing this, but you may find the following suggestions helpful nonetheless.
First of all, as long as you are reviewing old game tapes to decide if a fine is warranted, go back a few years. Review every play that every active safety in the league has made in his career and fine him retroactively. This will help to speed up the anti-violence conditioning.
Secondly, why stop with safeties? If any linebackers, cornerbacks, defensive linemen or offensive players after interceptions have made dangerous hits in the past, they should be considered risks and should be fined and/or suspended. I mean, on special teams alone everyone but the kicker has the potential to cause serious injuries. Perhaps you could fine them in advance just to let them know that you won’t stand for violent plays.
Third, if a college safety is obviously going to go pro and commits a dangerous play while still in school, you could levy a fine against his future earnings so he’ll learn that he can’t get away with that in the NFL. It’s always good to start training them while they’re still kids.
I have heard the old axiom that “defense wins championships,” and I know that it holds true time and time again. But nobody wants to see defense. Open things up for the passing game by fining as many defensive players as you can, and I bet you’ll find yourself very happy with the gentlemanly game you see on the field.
Thank you for your time in considering this matter.
P.S. Rest assured that Commissioner Gary Bettman received a similar letter about the deplorably violent conditions in the NHL.
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