Damar Hamlin is a safety for the Buffalo Bills who went into cardiac arrest after a big hit during a game on January 2nd
By now, you have either seen or heard about Damar Hamlin. Damar Hamlin is a 2-year veteran of the National Football League, currently playing for the Buffalo Bills out of New York. On January 2nd, 2023, Hamlin was playing against the Cincinnati Bengals in a big game that would determine the playoffs for the NFL season. During the game, Hamlin was making what was considered a routine tackle against Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins during the 1st quarter of the critical game.
During the tackle, Higgins had lowered his shoulder a little bit, aiming at Hamlin’s chest. Hamlin made the routine tackle, not appearing to be in any pain or an unstable state. Soon after Hamlin stood up, he then collapsed onto his back. The Bills’ medical staff then ran out onto the field and began CPR, to which Hamlin was loaded into an ambulance on the field and rushed to a local level 1 trauma center.
After staying up for a while after the game had been suspended, I listened to what the commentators and ESPN reporters had to say, and I took away that this rarely happens in football games to the point where they have to pull an ambulance on the field.
I personally do not play football, and I don’t know what it feels like to take a hit wearing the pads that football players wear. As someone who follows football, I know that players’ equipment is designed to be light and to put player safety first. My theory about how this might change football on all levels, peewee to the NFL, is simple.
I believe that the companies that are responsible for designing and manufacturing football pads are going to either be required, or out of the safety and compassion for their customers, will find a way to add a new layer of padding, either foam or some sort of shock absorbing material similar to what the players already wear inside their helmets. The companies will put that type of padding in the same area where Hamlin took his hit. Hopefully, adding these pads will prevent injuries at all levels of football, like the one that Damar Hamlin suffered during the game.
Quinn Wells is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.
In a forever-changing game, there is one reoccurring problem that has NFL fans like myself shaking their heads in disappointment. That problem is that on almost a weekly basis, at least one game is plagued with terrible calls that, on some occasions, have even decided the winner of a game. While some may argue that this is a common problem that can’t be solved, there is no doubt that bad calls in important division games and playoff games have fans calling for a solution. In this piece, I will provide examples of the worst cases in which NFL referees’ bad calls have decided essential games.
Many would argue that the quarterback position is the most critical position on the field. Increasing the frequency of roughing-the-passer calls prevents the league’s star QBs from being injured and calling to the backup QBs. In the wake of this, these calls’ consistency is questioned. NFL fans have seen times when a seemingly legal hit is called roughing the passer, and an illegal hit is not called. The official rule is that any hit to the legs or around the head area warrants a roughing the passer call. Defenders are allowed “one step” toward the QB after the ball is thrown, and more than one step warrants a roughing the passer call. Defenders also cannot hit a QB with their full body weight. While these rules seem fair and straightforward, NFL referees have shown otherwise.
One example of a bad roughing the passer call was a week 5 matchup of the 2022 regular season between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons. While the Falcons were trying to make a comeback late in the 4th quarter down six, star Defensive Tackle Grady Jarrett made a huge play, sacking QB Tom Brady. Jarrett wrapped up Brady and spun him to the ground, a seemingly ordinary sack that would have forced a Buccaneers punt on 4th down. This was flagged for roughing the passer and gave the Buccaneers a first down, allowing them to chew the rest of the clock out and stall out a Falcons comeback.
Another penalty that causes controversy for NFL referees is the pass interference calls. Like the roughing the passer penalty, pass interference gets called on an inconsistent basis where sometimes it gets called when it shouldn’t, and other times it doesn’t get called when it should. Pass interference rules state that a defender cannot initiate illegal contact that causes an unfair chance for the WR to make a play on the football. Holding, pulling, pushing, tripping, grabbing the facemask, and tackling the WR are examples of what would be called pass interference.
An example of a missed call was the 2018 NFC championship game, late in the 4th quarter, a wheel route throw from QB Drew Brees to Wide Receiver Tommylee Lewis was disrupted early from a hit by Rams Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. Instead of a pass interference call that would have set up the Saints’ offense with first and goal, they faced a 4th and long and had to settle for a field goal. Brees would throw an interception in overtime and allow a game-winning field goal to send the Rams to the super bowl. Many fans believe the Saints got cheated out of a super bowl appearance based on this one play alone.
NFL referees seem to have different ideas on the criteria for what is a catch and what is not. While roughing the passer and even pass interference have been more recently arising problems, the catching criterion is a problem that has been ongoing for a long time. The NFL states that if a receiver maintains possession going to the ground and the ball comes out after, it is a catch, but if the receiver doesn’t maintain control and the ball hits the ground, it is not a catch. While it can usually be determined if a receiver has possession or not, there are some cases in which a ruling is disagreed upon.
One example was a 2014 NFC divisional game between the Packers and Cowboys. With time winding down and the Cowboys finding themselves at a 4th down, QB Tony Romo takes a deep shot to WR Dez Bryant, which is caught. Bryant took a few steps towards the end zone with the ball securely in his hands before going to the ground, where the ball popped up but back into his arms. This was initially called a catch but was overturned after a review. This was especially surprising because, in terms of reviews, NFL referees need a clear view that the initial call was wrong, which there appeared to be none. Under the “rules” set by the NFL for catches, this should have been a catch.
It is clear from these calls that NFL referees have made that something needs to change. Two of these instances were in the playoffs and were the deciding factor in both games. NFL fans agree that action needs to be taken to prevent this from happening again because bad calls happen more than they should.
This year we might have experienced one of the most entertaining playoffs in NFL history. It included two overtime back-to-back weeks and games that were decided by one possession, not even including the Super Bowl.
On January 23, we may have witnessed one of the most explosive and exciting playoff games of all time. The Bills scored and left 13 seconds on the clock; the Chiefs, with three timeouts, drove down the field and kicked a field goal to tie the game at 36. The rest of the game was history.
The rules of overtime in the playoffs were that the team that wins the coin toss can choose to receive or defer the kickoff. There is a 15-minute quarter, and if no one scores, then they will go until there is a winner. As the Chiefs won the toss, they chose to receive. The Chiefs drove down the field with ease, it was first and goal, and Patrick Mahomes tossed the ball to Travis Kelce and he caught it, ending the game. This game will never be forgotten. This game left many people speechless and wondering what would’ve been the outcome if the Bills had a chance to possess the ball.
In 2010, the NFL changed the rules for the postseason only. The change was instead of being able to kick a field goal to end the game on the first drive they had to score a touchdown to win. Although the NFL and the NCAA have many different rules, I think the NFL should adopt the same overtime rules. Both teams will have possession before the game is over in the NCAA overtime rules. If one team scores, the other team gets a possession. After three times of this happening, it stops being touchdowns and transitions to 2-point scores; they start from the 25 and have a drive to score. This would until there is a winner.
This would improve the rules because it is more entertaining to watch, it’s fair for both teams, giving them a chance to extend the game and try to win. Lastly, the rule only being in the playoffs means it doesn’t change the regular season making it a tiny change to their many rules.
I firmly believe if the Bills vs. Chiefs overtime went this way, it would have been a different outcome. I think this because the Bills had a lot of momentum as they went into overtime, but they didn’t have a chance to prove themselves. It is situations like these where it would be beneficial to have the change.
The following week the Bengals and Chiefs played in the AFC championship. The Chiefs started off hot, getting an 18-point lead going into halftime. The Bengals were able to rally and tie the game. The Chiefs went three and out and punted the ball. The Bengals kicked a field goal and gave Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs six minutes to score. The Chiefs made it look similar to the game against the Bills. They drove down, and in the final seconds, they kicked a field goal to send it to overtime.
The Chiefs won the toss and got the ball to start. The Chiefs got the ball at the 25, and they got a first down, thinking this game would be the same as the week before. Everyone now assumed the Chiefs would win. Mahomes dropped back and threw an interception. The Bengals drove a few yards and kicked the field goal to win. I believe that if the Bills had a chance, they would have won like the Bengals did.
Ironically the Super Bowl between the Rams and Bengals came down to a similar situation to the divisional and championship. The Bengals had a chance to go down and score, but they didn’t.
In the following months, the NFL would change the rules, and as of March 29th, 2022, the NFL just recently changed the rules of what will happen in overtime. Both teams will get possession. Also, if the kickoff is fumbled and results in a safety the game will end there. As they made these changes in situations like these, I believe they don’t need to fix anything else in the rules. This change will be seen in the upcoming 2022-2023 season.
Roger Fredrickson is a freshman in Mr. Lambdin’s English Class.
With week 13 behind us, we must figure out the contenders and pretenders of the league. The first team we will check out is in north New York, the Buffalo Bills. The Buffalo Bills have lost their division lead over the Patriots, and fall to a wild card spot instead of a Divisional spot. Unfortunately, this team might really be pretenders, which is disappointing considering the high hopes we had for this team over the off-season. This is a hot take, but the Buffalo Bills are pretenders when it comes to the playoffs, but this team can still surprise us so let’s hope they do make it.
Second on the chopping block is the Tennessee Titans. Having multiple tough losses, the Titans need to find a break, as they do with a much needed bye week. The Titans may struggle when the season continues, but if you take a look at their division, they are perfectly fine as the Colts are behind 1 1/2 games, and the rest are irrelevant. They will have to pull their act together, but I doubt they must worry too much as the Colts are not too much of a threat. So final verdict is contenders, but this is mainly due to the fact that their division could be considered the easiest one in the league.
We move on to the Patriots, and I will just tell you right out they are going to get the 1st seed in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the entire NFL, the Patriots are back and are ready to go back to the Super Bowl, so yes they are in fact contenders. If you want to know why just look at the NFL standings and you will find out why they are doing so well.
We move on to the NFC, the craziest conference, considering the number of teams that are in the hunt. First the Arizona Cardinals. Now, this incredibly big surprise is a huge shock as nobody could’ve expected this performance from them. Obvious contenders, no doubt about it, and I’m pretty sure they’ve even already secured their spot.
Now we got the Green Bay Packers, who I’ll just say are contenders and always have been. I mean if you simply just look at how well they play under pressure, for example when they played the Arizona Cardinals. Easy contenders no doubt.
Moving on to the Washington Football Team. Now this team will be very hard to predict since they have moved around in the standings quite a bit, but they currently are in the wild card position, despite how bad their defense has played in these past few games. The Football Team has been alright recently, but considering everything in account, they could definitely lose their spot in the playoffs. On the other hand, the rest of the NFC teams have been incredibly bad, so they could also easily make the playoffs. So really, we have to wait and see for the Football team as they are too hard to understand. All these teams mentioned can make the playoffs but we will have to wait and see.
Going in to March, the NFL and the Players union came to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This change could lead to an addition to 2 more weeks to the NFL season, with the NFL wanting to keep the Super Bowl in early February the preseason could be at risk.
On July 1st, amid the global pandemic, the NFL decided to cancel 2 of the 4 preseason games, they would eventually eliminate the preseason as a whole for the season. There having been musings of eliminating the preseason or making it shorter. Traditionally there has been a set plan for all teams in ramping up to the season. Training camp began to take place in mid-July and the preseason would then end in late August. This situation has given players time to get back in to game shape. For the front office, it provides ample time to evaluate talent for the upcoming season. For late-round rookies this was their time to compete for a roster spot and playing time. Each season it feels like there’s always players who impress in the preseason and either land a spot on the active roster or practice squad.
COVID-19 created a unique situation for all pro sports league. The MLB was the first major American sports league to return, and in a normal season the teams would travel down to Florida or Arizona for a 6 week program called Spring Training. This set up allows for teams to play games each day and allows for players to work out in state of the art MLB facilities. Pitchers and catchers often report to spring training a few weeks before the other players due to the need to ramp up for the season and get their arm back into game shape.
This season the NFL and MLB had to adapt to the coronavirus while attempting to complete a regular season. The MLB was quick to begin, rushing the Spring Training process. It began on July 1st with games starting on July 24th. Providing players 3 weeks of training and a few exhibition games. For hitters this was a challenge but pitchers were the ones who were most affected by this plan. The MLB rushed to gain the first few days of views before the NBA and NHL began to play their bubble games.
The MLB was unable to secure the Spring Training facilities to potentially create 2 bubbles with both Leagues represented. Coronavirus cases in Florida and Arizona were at an all-time high during July, and sending the players to the facilities would cause a multitude of scheduling issues. The MLB also allowed for some of the top prospects to work out and play intersquad games at local minor league facilities. This made games in Florida and Arizona impossible due to the nature of the virus and the limited space. The MLB would have a 60 game season and then create a bubble for the playoffs in other host cities.
But what about the pitchers? The motions of pitching requires ample time along with a strict throwing routine. Pitching requires immense balance, correct arm angles, and the ability to use your wrist and elbow along with your lower body. Game shape for MLB pitchers is much harder to attain then it is for hitters. The increase of injuries for pitchers shows how intense the game can be and how even the best to ever play are constantly plagued by injury. The MLB’s inability to provide ample time for all the athletes while chasing TV times is irresponsible and will have major ramifications on the careers of all the athletes affected.
The NFL was unable to complete any preseason games along with no joint practices. Both leagues were at a major disadvantage. The inability to have proper time and proper competition cost both leagues dearly. The NBA and NHL were able to escape with only a few major injuries, but the NFL and MLB would be a completely different situation. Training camp brought no major injuries but on the second day of the MLB season, Future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander was recommended Tommy John surgery for an sustained in the season opener. On August 4th, then NL Cy Young favorite Mike Soroka, would be shut down for the season due to torn achilles. Other Major injuries include, Seranthony Dominguez, the only serviceable Phillies reliever and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg.
The NFL was forced to cancel the preseason based off the circumstances of COVID-19, and they had a more intense plan set in the CBA so there was little uncertainty if the season was in doubt. The cancelation of preseason has lead to an unprecedented amount of injuries. In week 2 of the NFL season, The San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets faced off at MetLife Stadium. In that game the 49ers sustained injuries to All Pro and former DROY Nick Bosa, Starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jerick McKinnon on the field. Bosa’s was the only one that was season ending, but all of the injuries have lingered for the other players leading to a high ankle sprain for Jimmy Garoppolo following a week 8 game against the Seattle Seahawks. The New York Giants lost franchise running back Saquon Barkley to another ACL tear in his week 2 affair against the Bears. Running backs Nick Chubb and Austin Ekler both sustained lower-body injuries early in the season. There has also been a lack of late round and undrafted players who are making a big difference. The Baltimore Ravens have always had an undrafted player on the active roster from the previous draft class. The only two players in the 2020 7th round that were starters for one week or more, kicker Sam Sloman, who won the Rams kicking job and QB Ben DiNucci who started for the injured Andy Dalton in week 8. There have been a few impressive undrafted players, the most notable being James Robinson, who’s filled in admirably for the Jags with the release of Leonard Fournette. Rodrigo Blankenship has been a stable get for the Colts special teams. But the late round talent has gone dry.
The NFL will be able to execute the season if they continue the control of the virus they have had so far but there is no guarantee. The lack of late round talent and the injuries of high end talent could be a concern for teams in finding inhouse replacements and having a next man up mentality. The MLB barely got over the finish line.. The injury to Justin Verlander could be one that leads to the decline of the first ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best pitchers to ever step on the mound. Mike Soroka will also have to make a huge comeback, as he’s in the middle of his early prime years and not being at 100% could hurt him, especially with the nature of his injury. In the NFL Saquon Barkley had his second year of injuries, after his electric rookie year he has become injury prone. This is more due towards the Giants inability to build an offense and protect their key players. Saquon is a generational talent but the injury bug could hurt him and his legacy if the Giants don’t protect him. The amount of lower-body injuries to running backs this season is high and shows how these all-pro backs aren’t able to be as prolific without the preseason tune up. Running backs take beatings week in and week out, and not being ready or seasoned has caused RB’s to fall apart early on.
The Game between the Jets and 49ers spurred a lot of controversy. The loss of Nick Bosa and the injury to Jimmy Garoppolo created concerns over the turf quality, but this was soon debunked. Nick Bosa was the Defensive Rookie of the Year last year and Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers to the SuperBowl. The amount of time needed to ramp up and condition is an issue for teams and it was obvious the 49ers were getting the bottom of the stick with their injury concerns.
As the season went on injuries slowed, there were minor freak injuries and major injuries that happened due to the nature of both sports. Ankle injuries are hard to blame on athletes but arm injuries are based off of how ready the player was and how hard they are being worked during the season. Verlander is an ace who is over 35 and is expected to throw every 5th day due to the nature of the sport. Saquon Barkley is expected to run the ball 25 times with no preseason to get him 100%. It’s hard for the league to see these injures and realize preseason and spring training are crucial for the game.
Andrew Sheppard is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class
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