The NFL’s crackdown on dangerous hits has drawn plenty of discussion over the last week, but now the Eagles will do their best to ignore it. According to linebacker Ernie Sims, coaches showed the Birds the video that was sent to each team and posted on the NFL’s website to explain what hits would be punished and what was considered clean, but told the players to ignore it once the game started.
“They just told us to go out there and play, they told us ‘Don’t think about it,’” Sims said. “[If you think about it] you’re going to be passive. As a defensive player you can’t be passive, you’ve got to be aggressive, you’ve got to take charge. I know for me, I just am not going to think about it. I mean if I get a fine I’m just going to deal with it.”
That seems to be a sentiment among a lot of players around the league. While reactions to that attitude may vary, keep in mind the rules haven’t really changed – just the enforcement. In fact, Sims didn’t even think most of the hits in the video were dirty.
“There was only really one hit on it I felt was a bad hit, that was the Meriweather hit. I definitely feel like that was a helmet-to-helmet hit. The other ones, I feel like they were legal,” Sims said. “Unless it’s like a cheap shot or I mean like one of those hits after the whistle, I really don’t think it’s being dirty, I just think it’s being a defensive football player.”
As a linebacker known for his fondness for delivering a big hit, it should come as no surprise that Sims views aggressive hitting as a major part of any defender’s job to make offensive players pay a price for the yards they gain.
“As a defensive player, that’s what we pride ourselves on doing. I remember in college, they used to give us a hit stick, [Florida State defensive coordinator] Mickey Andrews would give us a hit stick for big hits. So I mean, they used to praise us for doing that,” Sims said.
The wooden stick with feathers on it would be passed around the Seminoles locker room to the player credited with the biggest hit each week. If you’re wondering, Sims said he used to hold onto the hit stick pretty often, although he admitted to leading with his helmet frequently. Back then, spearing was known to be dangerous, but within the rules – the NCAA didn’t make it illegal until Sims’ senior season in 2005.
Now that defenders are under league-wide pressure to eliminate hits to the head and other dangerous hits on defenseless wide receivers, the goal becomes to continue to deliver hard hits without straying into the gray area.
“I’m just going to go out there and play man,” Sims said. “It’s an awkward situation, I just pray to God that I won’t get fined.”
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