When training camps started last week, the offseason officially ended, and it was an offseason in which the degree of violence and malicious intent involved in the average NFL game were hotly debated whenever we weren’t being concerned for our safety while sharing the road with NFL players.
Gregg Williams was largely responsible for the discussion regarding brutality in football thanks to the gentle suggestion he gave to his Saints defense last January. You know, the one where he told them to bend Frank Gore’s head in a direction the human body was not designed to withstand while doing his best John Kreese impression.
While there’s no debating the fact that bounties are wrong, awful, and against the teachings of the Bible, there was one dominant theme that we were all reminded of throughout the bounty discussions and the very public debate. Football is inherently a violent, brutal game, and to be successful a certain degree of ruthlessness is required, especially on defense.
And even more specifically, especially at certain defensive positions. Maybe there’s a cornerback out there who gets along just fine with a more passive approach, because his job is primarily to deflect and intercept passes, while the really heavy slugging is left to others. But try being a pass rusher, and not wanting to hurt someone as the adrenaline flows freely prior to every snap. It doesn’t work.
There is and always will be a mentality of violence that when harnessed properly translates into controlled chaos. Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji summarized that mindset perfectly in a comment he gave after a training camp workout today that was relayed by Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks.
“So many times as a defensive lineman, you don’t realize that, at the end of the day, it’s about violence. It’s OK to have good technique but if you don’t execute it with the proper violence and velocity that you need, it’s hard in this league.”
This needs to be printed, re-printed, framed, and placed on the wall in the bedroom of every aspiring young defensive player. In fact, put it directly above the child’s bed on the ceiling as a constant, looming reminder, sort of like that clown that haunted Bart Simpson. Or maybe just make it the wallpaper, and plaster it around a 12-year-old’s room. Yes, that’s better.
Violence and velocity: two words that concisely capture what it means to play defense.
Understandably, there’s a strong negative connotation associated with the word “violence,” and when it’s used as an adjective, that’s typically a bad thing. Not here, though, as the implication isn’t that a defensive player is bent on casing bodily harm. Instead, he’s playing the game with the required ferocity.
That’s defense, and that’s football.