FanDuel - WFBC

January 24, 2012

Giants Sought to Give Kyle Williams Another Concussion: Several players for the New York Giants said they targeted San Francisco 49ers returner Kyle Williams because of his history of concussions. "We knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game," said Giants special teamer Jacquian Williams. "He's had a lot of concussions. We were just like, 'We gotta put a hit on that guy,'" said another Giant, Devin Thomas.

posted by rcade to football at 08:23 AM - 40 comments

And according to his father, some "fans" tweeted that they wanted to do even worse than that to him.

posted by NerfballPro at 09:38 AM on January 24

That is just evil. Please, please, please Giants - don't make me root for the Pats.

posted by bperk at 09:45 AM on January 24

our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game

Actually the Giants "biggest thing" was keeping Williams in the game

posted by cixelsyd at 10:17 AM on January 24

I should know better by now but I'm amazed the Giants players would actually say this. To reporters. With cameras rolling.

Either the league comes down very hard on them or does a tremendous job of spinning what could be a tsunami-sized mess with two weeks open until the Super Bowl.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:40 AM on January 24

Maybe I'm too naive or unrealistic, and I know some form of this goes on all the time ... but this seems like a gigantic deal to me. Wanting to rattle a QB by knocking him down a couple times and making him think twice about being comfortable in the pocket is one thing. So does knowing that an opponent has a nagging injury and using that in the sense of taking advantage of how he might be limited. But, to intentionally target someone's HEAD and their propensity for concussions (and then be stupid and callous enough to brag about it) seems like a huge black eye for the league and just a reprehensible practice, especially considering all of the realizations about head-related injuries over the past few years.

I was convinced that whoever won last weekend, I'd be pulling for the NFC champ. Now I'm with bperk; this makes that kinda hard.

posted by littleLebowski at 10:46 AM on January 24

While bragging about it certainly is behavior that can not be condoned, it's not exactly new, or news, that players might target an opposing player's weakness.

I don't think we'd expect any player to go "oh, he has a sore right shoulder, I better only hit him on his left side". Yeah, the fact that it's concussions raises the bar, but the Giants said they wanted to put a hit on him, not hit him in the head. Were there any illegal helmet to helmet hits on him? Not that I saw.

As to the tweets...man, I hate that method of communication...that's a completely different story, and people need to be held accountable for death threats. Some moron threatened his wife and children, that he's single with no kids just makes it odd. I do hope the police look into those matters.

posted by dviking at 10:59 AM on January 24

... it's not exactly new, or news, that players might target an opposing player's weakness.

When the player's weakness is concussions, I think it's pretty big news that the Giants would admit to targeting it. This has the potential to be an enormous black eye in a sport that claims it is taking the risks of catastrophic brain injury seriously. Who told them to head hunt? If it was a coach, I'd expect that coach to be punished.

posted by rcade at 11:15 AM on January 24

Wow. That is despicable.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:16 AM on January 24

Special teamers talking, perhaps considering themselves marginal (or expendable) not expecting to have long NFL careers but still having intense competitive desire and having to scrap harder than the average bear for that roster spot.

I think a player with a more established spot on the roster and brighter pro career prospects might realize that the league is a small world and that the guy you're trying to permanently disable today might be a teammate tomorrow.

When you're talking about head injuries, you're not talking about whether or not the guy will able to walk when he's 50. You're talking about whether or not he's going to kill himself when he's 40.

But you know, this mentality can be found at various levels of competitive sports. We have an outstanding girls HS soccer coach in our area that I have worked with before.

I have a lot of respect for her in general. She is a former elite collegiate athlete and very competitive. Because of the rash of ACL injuries in girls HS athletics, at any given girls HS soccer game, there's bound to be a player or two on the field in a knee brace.

When this coach sees an opposing team send out a player wearing a brace, she takes it personally, as if the other team thinks it can compete with her squad at less than full strength. She literally challenges her girls to work that player so hard that she has to be taken out of the game. That is what she demands.

Even ignoring the fact that it might be strategically better to let the opponent send players onto the field who are not at 100%, I just think her approach to taking out these opposing players is way too extreme for my blood. Especially since the great majority of the players in that league are not going on to competitive collegiate careers.

posted by beaverboard at 12:15 PM on January 24

Targeting injuries at the HS level is one thing, the NFL is another.

rcade, I think if they had decided to go after his head it would be one thing but I saw no evidence of that.

I doubt any coach specifically says "alright guys, here's the list of injuries we're going to target in today's game", but most players that sense a weakness are going to exploit it.

special teams players always take some incredible hits due to both players running at full speed at each other. The league tried to minimize the number of kick off returns, but unless you require fair catches for all kicks, this is part of the game.

posted by dviking at 12:38 PM on January 24

I doubt any coach specifically says "alright guys, here's the list of injuries we're going to target in today's game", but most players that sense a weakness are going to exploit it.

Somebody spread the information about Williams' four concussions.

posted by rcade at 12:50 PM on January 24

I think if they had decided to go after his head it would be one thing but I saw no evidence of that

Well, they admitted that they DID consciously decide to go after his head. Their lack of "execution" isn't a reprieve from despicable intent. And despite your observations, they seem to be proud of themselves ... from here : "Sash did a great job hitting him early, and he looked kind of dazed when he got up."

most players that sense a weakness are going to exploit it

If "most players" try to exploit someone's bad ankle or sore shoulder, that's mildly ugly but it's somewhat understandable and palatable. You can "exploit" without intentionally causing irreparable harm. However, if "most players" feel head-hunting with the specific intent of trying to add another concussion on to someone's medical rap sheet is acceptable, I'm done with football.

this is part of the game

This has nothing to do with special teams play or normal risks. This is about the intent to cause physical damage, a type of damage that is known by everyone involved to have potentially long-term, far-reaching and life-threatening impacts. I honestly think you're taking a contrarian stance for shits and giggles - at least I hope so.

posted by littleLebowski at 01:26 PM on January 24

I could edit it out, but strike my last comment about dviking's intent ... you're entitled to whatever you want to say or think and for whatever reason. Sorry.

posted by littleLebowski at 01:32 PM on January 24

Let's see, I'll respond by quoting the article that littleLebowski just linked to.

Somebody spread the information about Williams' four concussions.

"The Giants likely were aware of Williams' concussion history from Williams himself. He had told reporters on Jan. 2 that he had had four concussions in his career, the last of which occurred Dec. 24 at Seattle" Beyond that injury updates are posted. They scrawl on ESPN, they're in the paper, and I'm sure players see fairly detailed reports as well.

Well, they admitted that they DID consciously decide to go after his head. Their lack of "execution" isn't a reprieve from despicable intent

"He's had a lot of concussions," Thomas told the Newark Star-Ledger. "We were just like, We gotta put a hit on that guy.'

I don't see the intent to hit him on his head, nor did I see that in the game.

In your last point you took my statement out of context. I said that special teams players always take some incredible hits, and that is most certainly part of the game.

I'm not taking a contrarian stance, just looking at what I saw from a realistic standpoint. Players have always targeted injuries, and I didn't see anyone target Williams' head. We can debate player safety and whether, or not, to curtail kick/punt coverage, but that is a different debate. The tweeting business is not related to the Giants' players.

Lastly, I believe, could be wrong here, that you are taking my comments as some sort of condoning of exploiting injuries. I never said that, I just stated that this is not new, and that I don't think the Giants targeted Williams' head.

posted by dviking at 02:06 PM on January 24

"He's had a lot of concussions," Thomas told the Newark Star-Ledger. "We were just like, We gotta put a hit on that guy.'

I don't see the intent to hit him on his head, nor did I see that in the game.

I think you're grasping at straws. The lack of an explicit "let's bust that concussion-prone guy IN THE HEAD" statement doesn't do much to take away from the clear impression to cause a head injury -- that's what a concussion is -- to a vulnerable player. Plenty of concussions are caused by something other than a direct blow to the head, and every NFL player knows it.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:18 PM on January 24

However, if "most players" feel head-hunting with the specific intent of trying to add another concussion on to someone's medical rap sheet is acceptable, I'm done with football

We will miss you. I am not saying they are head hunting, but I would bet they know that there are certain players that if they have the chance to go high or low on, they will go high if they have a history of concussions.

posted by Debo270 at 02:21 PM on January 24

When this coach sees an opposing team send out a player wearing a brace, she takes it personally, as if the other team thinks it can compete with her squad at less than full strength. She literally challenges her girls to work that player so hard that she has to be taken out of the game. That is what she demands

I don't really see the comparison.

In high school baseball we faced a pitcher that was over weight and had an ankle brace (from rolling his ankle). So we were told to bunt, since he couldn't field his position well, and it would tire him out.

You're attacking their ability to be on the field in their condition, but it isn't the same as intentionally hurting someone.

posted by justgary at 03:06 PM on January 24

I don't see the intent to hit him on his head, nor did I see that in the game.

Why do you think two different players mentioned Williams' concussions when describing how they targeted him during the game? There's no reason to talk about concussions unless they were head hunting.

If players and coaches are viewing concussions as just another weakness to exploit, the NFL needs to knock some sense into their heads.

We will miss you.

The NFL will miss the fans it loses because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

posted by rcade at 03:08 PM on January 24

I think you're grasping at straws. The lack of an explicit "let's bust that concussion-prone guy IN THE HEAD" statement doesn't do much to take away from the clear impression to cause a head injury

Why do you think two different players mentioned Williams' concussions when describing how they targeted him during the game?

Personally, I think talk is cheap, and a couple of Giants spewed some garbage. Looking at the game, I don't see anyone head hunting, and there were plenty of chances for them to take his head off, if that was, in fact what they wanted to do.

Since Williams is a return guy, I fail to see why it would be the Giants' responsibility to somehow hit him in a way that would completely avoid contributing to his next concussion. Any block, or tackle, has the potential to cause a concussion. They did not hit him in the head, and really didn't put any out of the ordinary hits on him. If Williams, or the 49er's are worried about him, perhaps he shouldn't be put in that situation.

posted by dviking at 04:22 PM on January 24

The NFL will miss the fans it loses because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

I thought we were talking about concussions.

posted by dviking at 04:24 PM on January 24

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions.

Since Williams is a return guy, I fail to see why it would be the Giants' responsibility to somehow hit him in a way that would completely avoid contributing to his next concussion.

No one has said they must avoid giving him a concussion in the normal course of play. The issue is that two Giants players said they were targeting Williams because he suffered multiple concussions. If that's true, it sparks the debate of whether such targeting is acceptable in the NFL as it grapples with CTE.

posted by rcade at 04:30 PM on January 24

Why in the world anyone would be surprised by this is beyond me. Football is a punishing violent sport where players are carted off the field every game (seriously - every game a player's season ends). If a player pulled up on a hit and it ended up backfiring and costing his team a play, or god forbid a win, then the scorn would be a heapin'!

I think it's a bit ridiculous to create a "kill" culture around your sport and take umbrage at people practicing it.

You could police it, ban it, etc. and I bet you solve little of the problems football has.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 06:46 PM on January 24

The culture of the sport was set long before the magnitude of CTE was apparent.

posted by rcade at 07:05 PM on January 24

But the question remains - how do you play NFL-capital-F-Football with velvet gloves? Those guys are monsters. The game is about collisions. The evolution has consistently been toward bigger, faster, stronger in my lifetime. The money at stake, the playoff one-and-done format, the sacrifices these guys make for a shot at on average is, what, a five-year career? I just think that headhunting is a pretty natural outcome to that kind of a stew.

Don't get me wrong, I love NFL Football and really hope that there is way to figure all this out and still play a reasonable facsimile to what we see now, but I have no fucking clue how they're going to do it. They seem way more concerned with how touchdowns are celebrated.

Hockey has this problem too, and in many ways it's worse, I think. I don't think football needs individual stars as much as hockey - it's not as reliant on gate receipts and the NFL actually does play favorites and treats QBs differently than other players. Hockey needs star players to be star players to sell the game.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 07:14 PM on January 24

I ask myself that question every time a player lies motionless for minutes on the turf and the announcers vamp about how the NFL has such excellent medical professionals on hand. But rugby manages to be a violent sport without destroying its participants. Maybe there's an opportunity to make players safer with less pads and a less weapon-like helmet.

posted by rcade at 07:40 PM on January 24

Don't get me wrong, I love NFL Football and really hope that there is way to figure all this out and still play a reasonable facsimile to what we see now, but I have no fucking clue how they're going to do it. They seem way more concerned with how touchdowns are celebrated.

Well, sure. I mean, regulating touchdown celebrations, that's easy. And it contributes to the bottom line. The NFL has managed to make long-term injuries not their problem, for all practical purposes. As far as the moral issue goes, they're afraid what they might find if they look. But as a fan, I ask myself over and over about when I draw the line.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:31 PM on January 24

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions.

me was joking, sorry

The issue is that two Giants players said they were targeting Williams because he suffered multiple concussions.

I hear you, but my point is that Williams had a target on his back regardless of his concussions. He's a return guy, they all are targets. The Giants did nothing on the field out of the ordinary. The talk afterwards was disturbing, but their actions on the field were not.

Your question about going to a format with less pads is interesting, I think it's a great idea for the high school level. Wonder if the NFL would ever adopt it. We lose a lot of people in the name of sports, we all bemoan it, then go right back to supporting it. maybe if people really did stop going the league would change.

posted by dviking at 08:34 PM on January 24

The "Improve Your Brain" ads that this discussion has pulled up here at SpoFi are inadvertently funny.

posted by Joey Michaels at 09:04 PM on January 24

Also, I wonder whether rugby players suffer similar issues with chronic traumatic encephalopathy? It seems like that would be an argument for fewer pads - though if you look at Rugby players, they are pure compact muscle in a way that few football players are...

posted by Joey Michaels at 09:05 PM on January 24

I hear you, but my point is that Williams had a target on his back regardless of his concussions.

If the target was on his back, then he's already beaten you. ;)

I think the problem is that you don't need to hit the player in the head to tackle him. In fact, that's probably a bad way to try and tackle a kick returner. It would make sense to try and hit him in the chest and wrap your arms around him. He's not a running back that's trying to barrel through a pre-determined hole in the line with only a 2 yard run up.

posted by grum@work at 09:51 PM on January 24

But the question remains - how do you play NFL-capital-F-Football with velvet gloves?

There's a difference between the sport being inherently violent versus a few knuckleheads going above-and-beyond normal gamemanship to intentionally inflict what they know to be potentially deadly, or at least severe, injuries. Not asking these guys to pull off of "normal", sound technique tackles because they might be violent. But to excuse intentional harmful conduct because the sport is otherwise violent feels misguided to me.

posted by littleLebowski at 10:51 PM on January 24

But rugby manages to be a violent sport without destroying its participants.

Not too sure about that.

posted by tselson at 11:57 PM on January 24

I think the problem is that you don't need to hit the player in the head to tackle him. In fact, that's probably a bad way to try and tackle a kick returner

My point exactly, they didn't go after his head. Silly what they said, but let's not over react to it.

Yeah, the second I posted the line about a target on his back, I knew it was trouble.

posted by dviking at 01:38 AM on January 25

Those guys are monsters. The game is about collisions. The evolution has consistently been toward bigger, faster, stronger in my lifetime.

As Joey suggests, I think the answer is fewer pads. First of all it increases the mass of players, but more importantly, it decreases their fear of collision. To me, the obvious (but ain't never going to happen) solution is to remove facemasks. See how often James Harrison leads with his face when there's nothing protecting it.

posted by yerfatma at 09:29 AM on January 25

Rugby has its share of catastrophic injuries, but probably fewer repetitive concussive hits. That's not to say it can be ignored, and the IRB has responded positively to Robert Cantu's "brain bank" research in Boston, and his request for players to consider him in their wills.

That said, the former players who report CTE-like symptoms were playing a very different game to modern professional rugby union. (Even tselson's link from 2006 feels dated by comparison with the player rotation, conditioning and physical makeup of teams in last year's World Cup.)

All sorts of shit happens in the scrum or the ruck, but you really don't see those kneel-down-and-pray injuries that occur regularly in the NFL and at the college level.

posted by etagloh at 10:50 AM on January 25

The "Improve Your Brain" ads that this discussion has pulled up here at SpoFi are inadvertently funny.

I think rcade selects the advertisements. He's trying to tell us something.

posted by Howard_T at 01:33 PM on January 25

As Joey suggests, I think the answer is fewer pads. First of all it increases the mass of players, but more importantly, it decreases their fear of collision. To me, the obvious (but ain't never going to happen) solution is to remove facemasks. See how often James Harrison leads with his face when there's nothing protecting it.

Might work, but I can't see them trying to reduce padding and "safety" equipment. The liability would be insane. I just don't see that happening.

Well, sure. I mean, regulating touchdown celebrations, that's easy. And it contributes to the bottom line. The NFL has managed to make long-term injuries not their problem, for all practical purposes. As far as the moral issue goes, they're afraid what they might find if they look. But as a fan, I ask myself over and over about when I draw the line.

As do I - no merchandise purchases, no tickets - but I still watch regularly on TV. However, while this is all well and good, it's not like I'm part of any larger trend. NFL income is just going up. The market doesn't really regulate the game anyway and they aren't going to look at the moral obligations anytime soon. There has to be a catalyst, which I fear will only be a player killed on the field during a legal play - preferably one in which the commentator celebrates the violence of the play. But the idea that the game is going to turn the majority of viewers off due to head trauma is not something I see happening. Perhaps the long-view is participation. If less and less parents put their kids in football eventually there may be a change, but that's going to be a long-time coming.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 05:50 PM on January 25

I think they were talking during the Ravens game about the players wearing less padding now than they used to. Ed Reed fell on his hip and he didn't have any pads there.

posted by bperk at 05:51 PM on January 25

Ed wears less padding not to protect others from his hits - he wears less padding because he thinks he performs better without it.

I don't see players volunteering to take down their padding unless everyone does it. And taking off knee/thigh pads is a far cry from removing a facemask.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 05:58 PM on January 25

That is just evil. Please, please, please Giants - don't make me root for the Pats.

posted by bperk at 09:45 AM on January 24

For this reason, I'm not clicking the link.

posted by MrFrisby at 10:27 PM on January 25

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