Of all the things NFL players can do to each other on the field the one most forbidden in today’s climate is to intentionally hit another player in the head.
On Sunday, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr not only intentionally rammed his helmet into the side of Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, he sprinted from several yards away to seemingly do so.
And for that the NFL suspended Beckham one game on Monday afternoon. The Giants most explosive player will miss their game Sunday night at Minnesota, a game they desperately need to win to keep alive their hopes of winning the NFC East.
In an NFL where the effects of head trauma are debated daily and the league has declared player safety is a top priority, Beckham’s charge at Norman seemed especially violent. The two had been fighting for much of the Panthers 38-35 win and at that point in the afternoon Beckham was especially frustrated having not caught a pass. Ultimately he would make six catches and nearly led the Giants to a stunning comeback victory, but that came after his attack on Norman. The two players had battled so much that Beckham drew three personal foul penalties in the first three quarters.
Though Beckham is one of the most celebrated players in the NFL and has already caught 91 passes and is third in the league with 1,396 yards and tied for first with 13 touchdowns, popular opinion turned against him on Sunday. Several commentators condemned his actions and many wondered why officials hadn’t ejected him. Giants coach Tom Coughlin later said he considered removing Beckham from the game but wanted to keep his receiver on the field in case New York came back from a 35-7 third quarter deficit which is exactly what happened. Coughlin told reporters he did not know that Beckham had collected three personal fouls at the time.
Many drew a connection to the new movie Concussion, to be released on Christmas, that is critical of the league’s slow reaction to mounting evidence that head trauma in football games could lead to the deterioration of brain functions and suggested the NFL has no choice but to suspend Beckham.
Adding intrigue to Sunday’s incident, ESPN reported that several Panthers players, including Norman, brought black baseball bats onto the field during pregame warm-ups and that Beckham felt intimidated when the Carolina players appeared to wave them at him. The report said the bat-waving put him in an agitated state of mind before the game even began. On Monday afternoon, Norman told the Charlotte Observer that the bats were supposed to represent making a big play “like hitting a home run.”
This article was written by Les Carpenter, for theguardian.com on Monday 21st December 2015 21.54 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010