ATHENS, Ga. — Bacarri Rambo has a unique angle on this week’s raging debate about hard hits in football.
The Georgia sophomore plays safety, a position that’s on the delivery end of many of the big hits. But Rambo has also suffered a concussion, one bad enough that he had to be carted off the field last year.
So from personal experience, Rambo is siding with the NFL in its efforts to increase fines, and perhaps suspensions, for illegal hits.
“You can get over a leg injury or whatever. But you can’t get over too many brain injuries,” Rambo said. “That can be a lifetime injury that allows you not to function right.”
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Still, in an illustration of how complicated and controversial the issue is, Rambo’s fellow starting safety at Georgia had a different view.
Shawn Williams said he worried that coming down hard on the big hits “takes away all the physicalness of the defense, takes away the aggressiveness.”
The issue has been building for some time, especially with the increasing science on the danger of concussions. And several hits Sunday caused the NFL to get proactive. One involved a former Georgia receiver, Mohammed Massaquoi, who was hit by the helmet of Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison. Another happened when Atlanta safety Dunta Robinson, an Athens native, knocked out Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson with a hit to the chest.
“I guess you could fine them for helmet-on-helmet,” Williams said. “But some of the plays, Jackson, I don’t think dude meant to hit him like that. Because they clearly said there was no helmet-to-helmet. It was just him trying to make a play. You can’t take away a defense trying to play physical.”
Georgia head coach Mark Richt recalled a hit last year by then-Bulldogs safety Reshad Jones, who was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit. Richt said Jones was putting his face to the chest of the offensive player, who put his head down to cause the head-on collision.
“I think it’d be a hard thing to judge,” Richt said. “Now if a guy leaves with his feet and leading with his head. But if you’re running through a guy and you’ve got your face up and you’re trying to make that form tackle, sometimes you’ll hit their helmet, but they weren’t trying to do that.”
Richt said his coaches teach to avoid helmeted hits, but added that the speed of the game, especially in open space, can lead to some harsh hits.
But the Bulldogs have also proceeded cautiously with their injured players: Cornerback Branden Smith, who has sustained two concussions, is out for a second straight game. Rambo, having gone through it, is behind the NFL’s steps to avoid further injuries.
“That concussion, you should take that seriously. It’s a very scary moment to have,” Rambo said. “I had a concussion and I was on the defensive side. Everybody thinks it’s the NFL trying to take up for the offensive players. But they’re really trying to have everybody safe on both sides of the ball.”