By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
The hit that left Danny Woodhead looking like Tommy Hearns circa 1985 (if you're not sure what I'm referring to, click the link -- you'll thank me) earned Bucs safety Devin Holland a 10,000 fine. Sounds about right to me. Violent as the hit was, scary as the immediate after-effects on Woodhead appeared to be, the Patriots running back was reaching to make a tackle on a punt returner when Holland leveled him. Holland didn't deserve the 20,000 wallet-hit that more often gets doled out by the NFL for what it perceives as gratuitous hits to the head. Holland was doing his job picking off a would-be tackler. That Woodhead's little head wound up in the firing line is simple geometry (physics?). Had Holland passed up that hit, gone for a glancing attempt at a block and watched Woodhead make the tackle, the rookie free agent from McNeese State may have been losing the chance at drawing an NFL salary this year, so the 10,000 investment was worth it. Holland was docked 5,000 for a hit in the Bucs preseason opener as well, so he's got a hot streak going. Woodhead maintained after the game that he was "fine." He sat at his locker speaking with family on his cell phone. I've seen concussed players in locker rooms after games. That is not what they do. Still, the fact Woodhead had his brain and skull jumbled so radically that he lost his equilibrium after the hit gave pause. Further,a concussion suffered by Woodhead in the regular-season finale against Miami last January and the understanding we now have that players suffering concussions are susceptible to getting them more easily on subsequent hits draws more concern It will be interesting to see if the Patriots go ahead and put Woodhead on the field Saturday night against Detroit. He returned to practice this week. The Holland hit - and the one by Bucs linebacker Mason Foster earlier in the game that drew a 20,000 fine - are the kind that draw extra scrutiny these days. They are spectacular collisions that are quickly dissected in Zapruder-like fashion to determine whether a defender made contact with a defenseless player's helmet. I didn't think either hit was wrong. Woodhead wasn't defenseless; he was trying to make a tackle. For Holland to make a block that didn't contact Woodhead above the chest, he would either have to roll at Woodhead's knees or magically shrink himself to a height of 4-foot-3. And in the chaos of a punt return, blockers are running full speed looking to hit anything in a different color shirt. There was no "intent to injure." Holland didn't line Woodhead up. As for Foster's hit on Ochocinco, I'm with Ocho: just football. If you can't break up the pass, you have to ensure the receiver is separated from the ball. Again, these defenders don't have a protractor handy to figure the angle that will avoid head contact. The unfortunate by-product of the NFL's vigilance on helmet-to-helmet hits is that observers -- fans and the media -- spend inordinate time trying to determine where hits ultimately land and forget the irony that A) the defenders are paid to deliver hits that ultimately cost them money and B) offensive players sign up for these risks when they enter the league.
By Tom E. Curran