In the wake of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s one-game suspension, Steelers safety Mike Mitchell went on a four-minute rant Wednesday about how soft the NFL has become. “Just hand us all some flags,” Mitchell said, “and we’ll go out there and try to grab the flags off.”
Charles Davis, a former safety, understands where Mitchell is coming from.
“Listen, I know what Mike Mitchell is saying as a safety,” the NFL Network and NFL on FOX analyst said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He’s a guy who wants to clean up the middle of the field. He doesn’t want those guys running those drag routes. He doesn’t want those guys running those crossing routes, those posts, those plays that threaten the very middle of the defense. He’s used to being able to lay the wood to someone and get that taken care of. Well, he still can. He’s just got to keep the head out of it.”
Smith-Schuster didn’t do that against Vontaze Burfict on Monday Night Football. Neither did Bengals safety George Iloka against Antonio Brown.
“What I think football collectively is trying to do is to make sure that the guys – when they are older and done with the game – have a much better quality of life,” Davis said. “What we were taught to do when I was in high school and college was to see what you hit in terms of your face mask on the football, your face mask into the chest of the player you were tackling – all those things which we know is not the safe way to play. Now we’re trying to teach the rugby tackling. We’re trying to make sure the shoulder is back involved, make sure you’re wrapping up with the arms, keeping the head out of it, make sure you’re delivering in your strike zone below the head and neck area. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Despite what the angry, just-hit-each-other-and-entertain-me fan says.
“For those that think that the game has gone soft because we’re not carting guys off left and right after a myriad of hits to the head, they haven’t been out there,” Davis said. “They haven’t done it. I’m just telling you: the hitting is as fierce now as it’s ever been. But it’s much more selective. We’re not reveling in every one of those big hits where a guy gets carted off. We don’t have segments on national shows anymore. We don’t have video games created to glorify those things.”
The NFL, according to reports, might adopt a targeting rule similar to college football, whereby penalized players are automatically ejected. Davis does not think that is a good idea.
“I think the NFL better think long and hard about that because colleges don’t have it right,” he said. “The colleges don’t have it down. You have more protests every week about a guy getting a targeting foul and he’s out of the game. The NFL is built around stars, and if we start using that college targeting rule and ejecting guys left and right, fans will (be angry). They just have to be very, very careful about that. Continue to enforce the safety. Continue to have the guys do a better job of knowing where they can hit and where they can’t.
“But this targeting thing, Im telling you: If they go back and watch college football and you think about applying it to the NFL, I think they got to be really, really careful about that,” Davis continued. “Because the colleges apply it unevenly as is, and we lose a lot of big-time ball players in ball games, in key games early. I know the NFL can’t work with that – because those are the guys that draw the people to the seat.”