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Quick Inside Slant: Week 6

Impressions of the 2014 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

It should not have taken Greg Olsen speaking up after the game for something to have been done about Vontaze Burfict.

It should not have taken Greg Olsen speaking up after the game for something to have been done about Vontaze Burfict.

This past week – and a week after I ran the heartwarming Devon Still story – the Bengals have committed one of the biggest atrocities in the NFL. And no, I’m not talking about tying their game against the Panthers, though that’s going to be super annoying when calculating playoff scenarios later.

Vontaze Burfict needs to be suspended and I’m not sure why nobody else is up in arms about this. What in the world does the NFL actually care about? I’m numb to everything Roger Goodell says now. He is not a man with any actual opinions, he is merely a well-compensated public bulls eye, a puppet for the league’s owners. A shield, if you will. If the NFL really cared about player safety, as they often say they do, this is the kind of statement they would make.

During a very, very long game against the Carolina Panthers, the Cincinnati linebacker made two tackles that actually didn’t count, because both were ruled touchdowns. But that is beside the point. While on the ground, well after he, the ball carrier, and everyone else watching the game knew the play was over, Burfict grabbed the ankle he had in his grasp, and gave it a little extra twist. And not in the fun-loving, ankle-twisting way that you might great your grandmother with either. But a trying-intentionally-to-hurt-you, let’s-see-what-I-can-get-away-with ankle-twist. And both times he did it to players who have had ankle injuries this year, Cam Newton and Greg Olsen. And both times, he did it to the ankle each player had injured. Maybe if he was just trying to make a tackle instead of eyeing up the weak ankles of his opponents, they wouldn’t score so easily against him.

Neither player was injured to the point of missing time, though OIsen did limp off after the incident. But in a world where we have slow-motion video evidence of everything everywhere, this should have been another layup for the league. If you want to turn your body into a missile and launch it at players to prevent a catch, I understand that. That’s a football play. Still, the league has strict rules, however unenforceable, and a fine system in place on that matter. But the human missile play is at least done between the whistles. This ankle-twisting movement Burfict has decided to make his signature finishing move happens outside of those whistles. And with the obvious intent to injure someone. He’s not trying to knock a ball loose or drag a runner to the ground by the shoulder pads. He’s trying to hurt somebody either because they just scored and they need to learn that’s not OK, or because he doesn’t want them to do it again. And I’m not sure which is worse.

When asked about it, Marvin Lewis, Bengals head coach, said in jest “Ankle wrenching? That sounds like the WWF.” Exactly, Marv. Except it doesn’t sound anything like the World Wildlife Fund. You may want to update your wrastling references (it’s the WWE now). But really, it does sound like what he meant by it.

A History Lesson

Kyle Turley definitely knew how to protect his quarterback.

Kyle Turley definitely knew how to protect his quarterback.

Thirteen years ago, Saints’ offensive lineman Kyle Turley cemented his place onto the Top 10 Wildest Sports Moments in history with his helmet decapitation and subsequent tossing during a loss to the Jets. When it happened, everybody in the world just assumed Turley went savage, like Alex the Lion in Madagascar. And he kinda did. But what the world – except for me – seemed to ignore, was why.

During the play, the Saints’ quarterback, Aaron Brooks, was tackled on the 4-yard-line, short of the first down. After the tackle was made, as the ref was clearly running in to spot the ball, Damien Robinson, a defensive back for the Jets, ran in to grab and violently twist the helmet of Brooks, who was lying helplessly under another Jet defender. If the person in question wasn’t the athlete Aaron Brooks was, who knows how many tendons or vertebrae would have been snapped? Unfortunately, because of Turley’s scalping of Robinson’s helmet and his one-finger salute afterwards – and the fact that his 30 yards of penalties cost the Saints a chance at the victory – the helmet-twisting part of the play got NO media attention. The only time anyone talked about it is when Turley talked about it. And when I talked about it. And I didn’t know why the league didn’t step in back then either.

If you haven’t seen this play ever – or in a while – check it out, especially the replay at the end when you can see what got Turley so riled up. And no, you can’t find a clip of it without rock music on behind it.

And Now…

So here we are, thirteen years later, and we still don’t know how to handle this situation. There is a rulebook 17 pages long about what you can and can’t do in the end zone after a touchdown. So you can’t spike it over the goalpost, but you can jump up in the stands? How does that make any sense? But there’s no explicit rule for people trying to end other people’s careers outside of the whistles. At least not one that satisfies me. You really care about player safety? Suspend Vontaze Burfict. Why not? What do you have to lose here? Are you trying to promote this level of sportsmanship?

I’m a solutions-oriented guy, so I’ll help you out. You don’t need 17 pages. You need one rule. And here it is: Anyone caught trying to injure another player between the whistles will be suspended for one game. Boom! Done! And it was really pretty easy. You want to throw a fine in there too, that’s OK with me. I don’t even know how to understand the sum of money these people make. Oh, and if this is a second offense, that player will miss the next four games, and they have to play the fifth game without a helmet. Look how easy that is. And now you can pretend to care about player safety again and go back to pretending certain racist names are OK because they’ve always been that way. But you should start by suspending this dirty player if for no other reason, than because if he actually snaps somebody’s tendon the next time, it’s no longer his fault. It’s yours, NFL.

Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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