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Call it what you want, tackling will be tough to change

I agree with William Shakespeare and Ray Lewis. Let me explain.

When I was in high school, I didn't pay attention in physics class. As a result, my teachers and parents described me with words like "lazy" and "apathetic." These days, kids who don't pay attention in class suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder.

When certain occupations are in need of a PR overhaul, they give those jobs more serious names. Stewardesses are now "flight attendants"; garbage men are "sanitation workers"; secretaries are "assistants."

As I believe that fella named Shakespeare once wrote, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." (You might want to check that, though; I didn't pay much attention in English lit class, either.)

My point (and Billy Shakespeare's, too) is that the name of something isn't as important as what it actually is. Deep down, we all understand that. But when Tiger Woods excuses his debauchery as "sex addiction," we subconsciously become cynical. We doubt that sometimes things really do change more than just a name from one generation to the next.

So it shouldn't matter what we call concussions, but maybe people would take them more seriously if they were described more literally as "bruised brains." Whatever we call them, it's time to realize that concussions in the NFL are a bigger problem than they were 20 years ago.

All this week, I've heard defenders of the status quo claim that it's not the sport that's changed, it's us. They equate the league's decision to beef up the penalties for dangerous hits with putting the players in pink tutus. So silly, and not just because there's not enough taffeta in the world to make a tutu for Vince Wilfork.

The players aren't doing anything different than their predecessors. In fact, you could even make a case they're playing cleaner. Sure, Brandon Meriweather, James Harrison and Albert Haynesworth (if he still counts as a current player) have had their moments, but can you think of any guy in the league right now who consistently headhunts like Cliff Harris, Jack Tatum and Bill Romanowski used to?

I've been watching football since the late '70s, and while I can recall seeing players occasionally being taken off the field on a stretcher, I'm positive I wasn't seeing it three or four times a weekend. So why is it happening more these days? Three words that we've all heard ad nauseam: bigger, faster, stronger. Yep, simple as that.

Boxing has weight divisions for a reason. Even an apathetic physics student like me knows that it's inherently unsafe for a person to get hit by someone who outweighs him by triple digits. What's especially dangerous about the NFL now, though, is that the giant tacklers, who are bigger and more powerful than the previous generation's defensive players, have the same world-class speed as the offensive players, who themselves are bigger and more powerful than their predecessors.

I don't buy the hooey and applesauce about guys "leading with their helmets." For the most part, at least, players tackle the same as they ever have. The only difference is that the collisions are more severe. Your car bumper may not dent if you're crawling around the parking lot and hit a grocery cart, but it definitely will if you're going 40 mph and you hit a truck head-on. Today's NFL players are trucks barreling the wrong way down a one-way street, and no one's got an air bag in their skull (although I have a hunch JaMarcus Russell has nothing but air in his).

So what's the solution? I don't think there is one. I'm with Ray Lewis, who said, "If somebody's getting ready to touch that ball, they gotta get dealt with. That's the way I've played the game since the beginning, the way I've watched the game since the beginning and no matter what they try to do, that part of the game can't change."

How could it? The fundamental point of the game is for one team to try and cross a line while the other team tries to stop them. As long as the increasingly bigger, faster, stronger offensive players are sprinting, lowering their heads and diving toward that line, the defensive players will be required to stop them.

Short of replacing the players with cyborgs, there's no way the league could ever completely eliminate head injuries. My pal the Commish certainly understands that. It's admirable that Roger Goodell is trying to change the game in the name of safety in spite of the risk that we fans will somehow find it less appealing. Unfortunately, I just don't believe this stricter enforcement of rules has a chance of working. The defensive players aren't going to stop doing what defensive players are on the field to do. Who knows, though? Maybe I'll be proven wrong. And if I am, there'll be a lot more offensive players crossing that line. Sure, the games will take nine-and-a-half hours, but imagine your fantasy scores!

Alright, enough. Time to move on to a couple other subjects. My ADD only allows me to stay focused on one thing for so long.

» The AFC is loaded this season, which means some good teams are gonna get squeezed out. Consider that of the following eight teams, three won't make it to the playoffs: the Patriots, Jets, Dolphins, Steelers, Ravens, Colts, Titans and Texans. Wow. For the record, my hunch is that those three teams will be New York (because of Sanchez - hear me now, believe me later), Houston (because of their pass D) and Indianapolis (because of their rush D… and because I'm sick of them).

» You may be thinking, "But Dave, what about the AFC West? Those teams all stink." And you'd be correct. Which begs another question: Why are both conferences' West divisions so putrid? At least the AFC's version is fairly rich with fantasy options like Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Jamaal Charles, Kyle Orton, Brandon Lloyd, Zach Miller and Darren McFadden. In the NFC West, once you get past the Niners' duo of Frank Gore and Vernon Davis, you're left with Steven Jackson (who rarely finds the end zone) and Larry Fitzgerald (who's got someone marginally better than Matt Leinart throwing to him).


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» The disparity between the AFC and NFC is cavernous right now. In my estimation, there are at least five teams - the Patriots, Jets, Steelers, Ravens and Titans - that I'd rank ahead of the best NFC team.

» Here's the oddest aspect of the AFC's supremacy over the NFC: There's zero carryover in terms of individual players' fantasy numbers. I know it's not a statistically sound way to approach putting a fantasy team together, but I like the idea of drafting good players from good teams. If the teams are better, shouldn't the players on those teams be putting up better stats? It just feels logical (and yes, I know "feels logical" is an oxymoron). However, based on a cursory review of the numbers, I'm a moron. More than half of the top dozen players at each position are in the NFC. What's it mean? Why are you asking me? I'm the one who came up with the cockamamie "draft good players from good teams" theory.

» Who is the best team in the NFC, by the way? The Giants? Eh. The Eagles? Their quarterback kerfuffle needs to play out a bit more before we can say. The Saints? Maybe they'll be scary if and when they're healthy. Ditto for the Packers. Or could it be the Vikings? I know they've only scratched out two wins so far, but if they can somehow knock off Aaron Rodgers and company on Sunday night, look out. How bad can a team with Adrian Peterson, Randy Moss, Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe be? The defense may not be dominant, but it'll do. Ironically, their greatest weakness is at quarterback. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Vikes would've been better off with Tarvaris Jackson.

» Speaking of Favre, remember to root against him this weekend. Not because of his modern technology-related struggles, but because of what he did to Green Bay. Yeah, Packers fans are happy Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson stood by their commitment to play Rodgers at QB… and yeah, Favre's probably already feeling low about turning his once luminous career into a joke … but putting on the uniform of the arch-rival Vikings is a sin that should never be forgiven. Boo!

Which reminds me, Happy Halloween, everybody!

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