NFL not alone, players of many sports have ‘pay for performance’

Published 4:04 pm Thursday, March 8, 2012

We’ll leave it to the agents, owners and courts to sort out whether crimes were committed when certain NFL players were taking “kill shots” at players on other teams and being paid bounty money by addled assistant coaches.

But we do have something to say about whether pro football players — whether jacked up on steroids or not — are or ever have been out to hurt the guys on the other side of the ball. Two words: “rugby” and “hockey.”

Choose your poison. Either one is routinely far more physically dangerous than pro football, and each has its own subculture regarding “pay for performance,” which is a nice way of saying “pay for pain” and is not how it’s discussed in the locker room.

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This has nothing to do with the sadly routine concussions that are otherwise getting attention — much-needed attention — in the news, in state legislatures and on pee-wee football fields.

Likewise, this is not about “sportsmanlike conduct,” a term that exists only by virtue of the need to define “unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Plow through the NFL policy manual, and it’s right there with variations on the theme: chop block; clipping below the waist; fair catch interference; illegal crack-back block by offense; piling on; roughing the kicker; roughing the passer; twisting, turning or pulling an opponent by the face mask; unnecessary roughness; unsportsmanlike conduct; illegal low block; a tackler using his helmet to butt, spear or ram an opponent; any player who uses the top of his helmet unnecessarily; striking opponent on head or neck with forearm, elbow or hands whether or not the initial contact is made below the neck area.

It goes on at some length from there, but you get the idea.

The point is this: As much as we’d like to tell ourselves and the kids that “safety” in pro football is anything other than a defensive position or 2 points, it just isn’t so. There is way too much money and ego at stake, and every athlete with pro potential knows that by the time he starts playing college ball. …