Controversy remains on helmet-to-helmet hits

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:17 AM ET

The game is over, and Buck Pierce is OK.

All that's left to do now is debate the hit Toronto Argonauts linebacker E.J. Kuale dished out to the Bombers quarterback on Saturday at Rogers Centre and wait for the CFL to announce the fines.

The Argos believed Kuale got the short end of the stick when he got kicked out of Winnipeg's 33-24 victory for his late, helmet-to-helmet smack on Pierce early in the third quarter. The Bombers, naturally, felt it was the right call.

One thing for certain is the teams and their fans will never see eye-to-eye on the issue.

"It's certainly late, and it's certainly a shot to the head, launching through our guy's head," Bombers head coach Paul LaPolice said Sunday.

The CFL is trying to eliminate helmet-to-helmet hits, and it has dished out fines in each of the last two weeks for such collisions -- intentional or not. In fact, Bombers middle linebacker Joe Lobendahn should get pinched for his head knock on Argos quarterback Cleo Lemon, who was running with the ball when he got hit and had to leave the game in the first quarter.

"They're two totally different hits, because one, the quarterback (Pierce) has thrown the football and he has protection when he's throwing the football," LaPolice said. "The other one, Joe was trying to tackle a guy who was running with the football."

Kuale's hit was much more vicious, and it's the kind of play the NFL and CFL are trying to remove from their games. Of course referee Glen Johnson didn't know Kuale's intent, but the nature of the hit was good enough for him.

"For an official to make a judgment on intent, what he goes off of is the actions of the player," LaPolice said.

The Boatmen were not pleased with the call, saying the officials were protecting Pierce too much after he took a pair of late hits from the Calgary Stampeders on July 14 and had to leave the contest at half time with a quadriceps injury.

"If they would have given him a warning, I understand that, but we got punished basically from what happened (against) Calgary last week," Argos cornerback Byron Parker said. "And I do understand how the league wants to protect quarterbacks and I understand that Buck's a star, but come on."

If nothing else, Kuale should have known hits to the head have become a touchy issue in sports these days. Research is being done to determine the long-term effects of blows to the skull, and some athletes with concussion histories are donating their brains to science.

Kuale could have hit Pierce in the ribs. He probably would have received a roughing-the-passer penalty for the lateness of the hit, but he wouldn't have been tossed. Is it really that hard to avoid the head?

We'll give loquacious Bomber defensive end Odell Willis the final word.

"The whole game up until then had been clean, and you go out and do something like that. Nonsense," Willis said. "What if he had ended that man's career? Then what?"

-- With files from QMI Agency

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk


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