Archive for the Artis Hicks Category

Memo to the NFL: Let the Punishment Fit the Crime

I realize football is a tough sport. I played the game in high school.

Like Vince Lombardi once said, “Football is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport.”

Injuries happen, and I’m OK with that, as long as they happen within the rules.

St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Gary Gibson broke bones in his foot and ankle in Sunday’s loss to Minnesota after being shoved by Vikings tackle Artis Hicks. Gibson fell awkwardly to the Edward Jones Dome turf, and his season was over.

The shove came after Vikings quarterback Brett Favre had released the ball, completing a 47-yard pass down field to Sidney Rice. Fifty yards behind the play, Gibson lay writhing in pain.

Gibson’s season was over with a cheap shot, an unnecessary shove after the play. What did Hicks receive for his punishment? Not a penalty during the game, and then on Thursday he got a $5,000 fine from the NFL.

Five grand for ending a guy’s season?

How about you let the punishment fit the crime?

If you hit somebody illegally, and that other player misses one game, you miss one game. If it’s two games, then a two-game suspension. In Gibson’s case, he’s done for the season, and so should be Hicks.

The NFL is so hypocritical about its rules to protect quarterbacks. Tapping a QB on the forehead with a fingernail draws a 15-yard penalty, but when a lineman blindly gets shoved to the turf forcefully enough to snap a bone or two, there’s no flag?

Even worse, that same love-tap to the noggin could get a $20,000 fine, even though no harm was caused. But an actual cheap shot that ends a guy’s season merits only a $5,000 fine.

Hmmmm. Interesting.

This reminds me of a game a few years ago between the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Favre, then with the Packers, had thrown an interception. Favre’s good buddy Warren Sapp, a defensive lineman with the Bucs, passed up a block on Favre, who was closer to the play, and blindsided Packers tackle Chad Clifton instead.

Sapp put the crown of his helmet under Clifton’s chin. The force of the hit lifted the 320-pound Clifton off the ground in what they call a “de-cleater.”

When Clifton landed, he did so with such authority that he sprained bones in his pelvis, ending his season and forcing him to spend nearly a week in the hospital.

The cheap shot was deemed “legal” by the NFL, and Sapp got off scot-free. That was such an injustice. What made it even harder to swallow is that Sapp showed no remorse for ending another player’s season and jeopardizing his career.

He showed no empathy for an injury he himself could have fallen victim to. Never once did he apologize. Not once did he visit or even call Clifton while he was in a Tampa hospital.

And not once was a punishment or fine even discussed by the NFL.

A clean hit, my butt.

Even Sapp admitted that he passed up a hit on Favre to go after Clifton, a player against whom he faced off for much of the game. That right there tells anyone with common sense that he sought out to injure Clifton.

Then-Green Bay coach Mike Sherman recognized the “block” as a cheap shot immediately and challenged Sapp after the game, telling him it was a “chicken-XXXX thing” for him to do.

Sapp’s reaction was to challenge the coach to a fight. Real nice.

I had liked Warren Sapp, until then.

How he got away with it angered me even more. The NFL should have ended Sapp’s 2002 season, just as he ended Clifton’s.

Hicks’ shove of Gibson reminded me of how the NFL hands out gross fines for seemingly harmless contact, while other hits that aren’t so harmless, and sometimes result in season-ending injuries, basically go unpunished.

That just isn’t right.

If Gary Gibson were a quarterback instead of a defensive tackle, I’d wager that Hicks’ fine would have been a lot more substantial.

This column can also be found at The Alton Telegraph .

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