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Puzzling no call on White hit

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While the NFL has issued plenty of pronouncements in recent years regarding disciplinary action against players leading with their helmet, one of the most visually disturbing collisions of the season went unpenalized during Sunday's Steelers-Dolphins game.

The hit occurred as Miami's Pat White turned to the left boundary after a moderate gain. White was heading to the sideline as linebacker Lawrence Timmons grabbed him by the foot, causing the backup quarterback to trip and begin falling out of bounds.

As White continued to the ground, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor came in head-first to finish the tackle. The violent helmet-to-helmet hit left White motionless for a few moments, and as Taylor walked away looking a bit woozy himself, safety Tyrone Carter rushed to congratulate his teammate for the knockout blow.

Meantime, as a cart quickly arrived to remove White from the field, Dolphins fans were left to wonder why no flag. Clearly Taylor led with his helmet, and according to NFL mandates, players who do so are subject to ejection if the violation is deemed flagrant.

No one is suggesting the hit was premeditated, but replays showed unequivocally Taylor lowering his head while hitting a defenseless player. Isn't that the exact violation the league seeks to enforce without exception?

"Actions that involve flagrant helmet to helmet contact are the likely acts that will include disqualification," Mike Pereira, the NFL's supervisor of officials, wrote in a memo sent to all NFL teams in 2006, according to a report by the Associated Press. "Our commissioner and this office remain very focused on the safety of our players."

Tell that to White, who had air rescue called just in case but was transported by ground to Broward General Hospital. White apparently will be okay, but that does nothing to diminish the clear violation of league rules regarding helmet-to-helmet impacts.

"I told him, 'hope you feel better, man,'" Taylor said. "You never want to see a guy down like that. He kept repeating, 'Thanks,' and I just kept telling him to get better."

NFL officials need to do the same in penalizing helmet-to-helmet hits. If officials don't become more vigilant on this issue, players will continue to use their helmet as a weapon, and the results could be memory-related disorders, as some former players have experienced in retirement, paralysis or even loss of life.

Let's hope the league takes the strongest stand possible before it comes to that.

By Gene Wang  |  January 4, 2010; 6:00 AM ET  | Category:  Refs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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You soccer moms need to stop watching football.

Posted by: hounddog1 | January 4, 2010 2:02 PM

A flag was thrown, but nothing was ever said about it. I'm a Steeler fan, but my first thought as the hit occurred was, "Ike, what in the did you do THAT for?" My next thought as I saw how White had fallen was "Bright Lady, don't let his neck be broken." I'm glad it wasn't, but I was fully expecting an unnecessary roughness penalty. I still don't know why the flag was apparently quietly picked up with nothing more said about it.

Posted by: tistyen | January 4, 2010 5:05 PM

I've long suspected that there are two sets of penalty standards in the NFL; one more liberal standard for teams like the Steelers, Patriots, Colts, etc., and another for the rest. The league would deny it, but the favored teams create high TV ratings, especially in the playoffs.

Posted by: scottguthrie | January 6, 2010 12:52 PM

and as Taylor walked away looking a bit woozy himself, safety Tyrone Carter rushed to congratulate his teammate for the knockout blow.

Watch the clip. As White begins to fall because his back leg is swiped out from under him, Ike Taylor instinctively drops a little lower adjusts to meet White in his fall. This brought his helmet into contact with White's. It looks awkward for Taylor and obviously was not intentional.

Characterizations such as the one excerpted above are unhelpful when, as in this case, they are unfair. This was not the vicious, intentional helmet-to-helmet contact that the league need be watching out for. This was not a Rodney Harrison-type move; Ike Taylor was simply playing football. (The key word in the quote the author excerpted from a league official is "flagrant," not "helmet-to-helmet.")

Knee-jerk, dime-a-dozen diatribes against certain unfavorable results without regard for the surrounding circumstances are decidedly not the way change in this area will ultimately be wrought.

Posted by: AlanWhickers | January 9, 2010 1:48 AM

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