WINNIPEG - Marcellus Bowman wonders when football is going to stop making life more difficult for defensive players.
The rookie Winnipeg Blue Bombers linebacker believes most changes in rules or philosophy, like the NFL’s decision this week to come down hard on flagrant hits, are difficult on players who patrol his side of the field.
“Every year, at the beginning of the year, they show us a tape of what you can and can’t do, and it’s almost infuriating to see the rules they make that cater to the offence,” said Bowman, who played his NCAA football at Boston College. “… They’re trying to make it exciting for the TV. Everybody likes fireworks and big plays.”
The CFL doesn’t allow hits to the head, nor does it permit defensive players to lead with their helmet on any part of the body when making a tackle. Now that the NFL is cracking down on such hits, it’s only natural that all defensive players, including those north of the border, will be scrutinized.
Bowman never tries to lead with his helmet when making a tackle since it will hurt him as much as his victim, and his blow up of Saskatchewan Roughriders Chris Szarka in the Banjo Bowl was a clean, devastating hit that should make the highlight reels at the end of the year.
Bowman had about a day and a half to prepare for his destruction of Szarka, but that is not the norm. Normally a player doesn’t have that much time to think.
“You’re asking a defender to do too much in a split second,” Bowman said. “We already have enough things to worry about. Once you’re finally in the right spot and you finally get a chance to make a big play and then you have to think again, that’s just too much. It’s too much.”
Like Bowman, Bomber safety Ian Logan feels defensive players don’t have enough time to intentionally try to hurt an opponent. He hopes the CFL doesn’t crack the whip on bone-crunching hits like the NFL is doing.
“When you go into each tackle, you kind of subconsciously think to yourself: What do I have to do to bring this guy down?” Logan said. “And whatever happens, happens. Whatever you have to do, you do. You don’t go in thinking: I don’t want to hit his head with my head.
“… And if he moves last second and you hit helmet to helmet, as long as you can tell there’s no intent to hurt, I don’t think you can do anything about it.”
Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice admitted it’s more difficult for defensive players today than it was 10 years ago because of the new rules, but the safety of the players is most important to him.
“I know it’s fast, but you always gotta think about a player’s safety. You can’t hit anybody in the head,” he said. “You can’t do that in any league.
“We want them to get the ball and knock the ball out. That’s the perfect hit.”
That may be true, but Bowman figures crushing blows can also provide a big advantage for the defence.
“As much as the game is physical, it’s mental,” Bowman said. “And if a person gets hit hard, next time they’re going to be thinking about it.
“But if they know that you can’t hit them hard, then that’s another advantage for the offence, which is not fair to the defence.”