Monday, January 23, 2012

SWEEP THE LEG. DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT? Anyone want to defend this as good sportsmanship?
After the game, reporters crowded around the locker of Jacquian Williams, who'd forced the second fumble, hoping for an angle: Had the Giants noticed something about Kyle Williams's technique, some weakness in the 49ers punt-return scheme? "Nah," Williams said. "The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game."

Devin Thomas, the reserve wide receiver who recovered both of Kyle Williams's fumbles, was even more explicit. “He’s had a lot of concussions," Thomas told the Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi. "We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on that guy.’ ... [Giants reserve safety 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.”

It certainly sounds like the Giants' special teams players were told about Williams's history of concussions, and that they went after him because of it. (That this has so far drawn no attention from beat reporters suggests that such planning is commonplace). It's impossible to know whether Thomas is right — if Williams in fact was concussed or woozy during the game — but he didn't look himself yesterday: There was the third-quarter punt that skimmed off his knee after he seemed to dawdle, unsure whether to pick it up or let it roll, and at least two punts that he fair-caught though he had plenty of room to run. Sports Illustrated's Ann Killion also noticed "a fumble on a reverse that he fell on, a strange sideways diving catch on another punt that could have been disaster." Williams played virtually the whole game at wide receiver and didn't register a single catch.


  1. Adlai7:13 PM

    Well, I can't even defend football as a continuing concern given the risks, so this is all horrible.

  2. girard317:23 PM

    I think it's the 49ers responsibility to notice such erratic play and take him out until they figure out wht's going on.

  3. There were at least three points in yesterday's game that I said, "And this is why your mother won't let you play football."

  4. D'Arcy7:37 PM

    Agreed. It's still terrible sportsmanship, but also a complete and utter lack of concern for your player. If this guy has a history of concussions, and you see him get his bell rung, he should be off the field until you have conclusive proof he is not suffering from another one.

  5. Meghan7:49 PM

    Definitely not good sportsmanship but certainly another day on the gridiron. I'm not excusing it, merely acknowledging the prevalence of intentionally exploiting your foe's weakness. Whether it's a bum ankle, a strained knee, a broken finger, it appears to be the cost of doing business. That the repercussions of targeting a rung bell can be permanent and devastating is worse, yes, but not surprising.

  6. <p>I understand what you're saying, Megan, but exploiting an opponent's strained knee or bum ankle is probably not going to cause lasting physical injury. Exploiting a player with a concussion will lead to brain damage.
    </p><p>But I think the question becomes: Why didn't the coach or trainer insist he be taken out of the game? It's irresponsible and, I think, immoral to leave an athlete with a brain injury in a game, whether it's in football or in relatively benign baseball. And at a certain point, Williams became a liability on the field. Last summer, I was at a White Sox game, and one of the pitchers was hit square in the face by a line drive. He kept insisting to the trainer that he was fine. They pulled him anyway, and he was out of the rotation for a week or two.

  7. Meghan8:53 PM

    No, I agree with you--the ramifications of head inuries are far more serious. I'm just saying I'm not surprised. And athletes are a special breed: they won't typically acknowledge their own pain or injury, so someone else will have to use objective criteria to determine readiness. So yeah, trainers/medical staff need to make the call.

  8. This is out of bounds.  Targeting weaknesses related to a known injury in order to gain advantage on a play or over the course of a game has to be distinguished from targeting someone for injury or re-injury in order to gain advantage.


    "He's rehabbing his left knee.  Block him left.  Make him use it.  You'll get around him and he'll tire out quick."
    (legitimate, sportmanlike strategy)


    "He's rehabbing his left knee.  Hit his left knee.  He'll reinjure it and become a liability."
    (illegitimate, unsportsmanlike strategy)


    "He's got knees.  Break one of them.  His back up isn't nearly as good." 
    (evil, pure and simple)

    Targeting someone for a concussion is, I would argue, closer to that last quoted strategy than the second one.  It's more than bad sportsmanship.  It's hurting someone on purpose, deliberately jeopardizing their career and their quality of life when that career is over, in order to win a game. 

    If it is truly so common as to be unworthy of comment then comment is even more necessary.  The practice must be exposed and explored, the issue thoroughly aired and examined, so that concensus can be generated to change this aspect of the sport's culture.

  9. Frankly, I'm shocked that the players felt so free to talk about it.  It makes me shudder as to how little the message about the dangers of concussions may have been absorbed ... or it has been, but the players are too results-oriented to care enough about their opponents' long-term health.

  10. isaac_spaceman12:16 AM

    Can't really even think of a reason why a guy with four concussions would still be playing football (especially a marginal one, not because the risks are different but because the rewards are).  Resisting the urge to call it proof of the effect of concussions on judgment. 

    But you can't blame concussions for the gaffes.  The knee-touch was an idiot play, pure and simple.  You either catch the football or you run the hell away.  I've seen maybe a dozen plays this year, between college and the NFL, where returners are just kind of hanging around in the vicinity of a bouncing ball, resulting in maybe three or four turnovers, and I cannot believe that this still happens.  Are these returners unfamiliar with the properties of an inflated oblong upon striking the ground?  It's almost as if they never took physics or mechanical engineering in college. 

    And the second fumble was just a good play by the Giants.  Williams should have had the ball tucked away better, but most attempts to strip come from the top, and this one came from below.  Good play by the Giants, bad play by Williams.  I didn't see Williams take any hits to the head in the game (obviously I could have missed stuff), so to me those just look like bad plays by a fringe player.  Maybe getting driven out of the NFL for non-concussion reasons will end up saving him from getting driven out for concussion reasons. 

  11. Football -- guys without the ball talk about hitting the guy with the ball. I read it as more along the lines of "we have to tackle him and if we do it with sufficient vigor we may realize an outcome that is beneficial to our team."

    For me, the Berdych handshake snub is a more interesting sportsmanship issue. He's at the net and the bodyshot is hard to return. Take your win and stop acting like an whiny ass.

    The "sweep the leg" wasn't the problem, it was the "elbow to the leg so it breaks like a jigsaw puzzle" that went too far.

  12. When I read the quotes in NYMagazine, I thought it sounded an awful lot like players who bought into, rather than saw through, what some coach or veteran player had said to psych them up. He's the kick returner -- when is the kicking team NOT going to try to "put a hit on" the punt returner? If Ted Ginn Jr had been in there, they would have tried to hit him exactly the same way they tried to hit Williams. Are we really still shocked that football players and teams use foul/disgusting/offensive language and references to psych themselves up? No "special" action was taken differently here than would have been taken if it had been another player; his history of concussions was just the bait the Giants used in his case.

  13. I don't know how you can read <span>"The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game," as something other than "we wanted to induce another concussion."</span>

  14. I take it as motivational talk. They didn't hit him illegally during the game (apparently). Do you think a single game goes by where players don't say something like, "I want to crush that guy" or "I'm going to nail the qb" or "I want to knock him out of the game?" That happens in roughly every single game in the NFL, in college, in high school, etc.

  15. You have to read-in pretty aggressively to ignore the focus on his concussion history djg.  There is a lot of the talk you describe in and around football, and it blurs the lines between hype and criminal behavior, but you can't point to the blur and ask us to assume this was just hype.

  16. The only thing I point to is that their behavior was no different regarding Williams than any other player. He didn't get any more viciously hit than any other player in the game; he didn't get concussed (apparently; he was speaking clearly and easily and without any kind of problem or pain in several interviews yesterday); and they didn't "go after" him outside of the rules by hitting him after a play or in the head or anything like that.

  17. Respectfully, I don't think we know that.  These guys say pretty clearly that part of their plan was to see that Williams "got his bell rung", and that they believe he did.  Nobody points to the play, says who did the deed or how, but they admit they were out to do it -- because of his history of concussions, no less -- and show that they thought it got done. 

    Maybe the behavior towards Williams wasn't different.  Maybe they were out to give everyone on the 49ers a concussion.  That would hardly be exculpatory.

  18. I guess your last 2 sentences is exactly my point: every week, teams find something to rally around that ends up with them wanting to bash someone's head in. The linebackers have their rallying point, the d-line has theirs, the punt coverage team has theirs. That bait is rarely dignified or sportsman-like; few would defend locker-room language outside of its context, and perhaps not even in its context. As I said above, it's frequently if not always foul, disgusting, and offensive, in lots of ways. This wasn't different or worse than the usual. I'm not saying it's "good" or "sportsman-like," just that it's the same as it always is and has been.