The night before an NFL game follows a similar course for teams throughout the league. Players and coaches finish their meetings at the team hotel, and, at some point, they gather to watch an inspirational highlight video set to music. These video presentations don't feature extra points, either. They single out the biggest plays, including crushing hits such as the ones stirring debate in locker rooms and beyond.
Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather showed just how sensitive the subject has become when he said rules designed to reduce head injuries are forcing defenders to inflict career-altering knee injuries by aiming lower. "You got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees," he said. His tone was so coarse and the fallout so severe that NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith offered damage control.
All the while, a largely overlooked body of evidence suggests the public focus could be in the wrong place. The head coach for a team with one of the NFL's most effective and hardest-hitting defenses recently let the commissioner know what we're missing.
Twenty years ago, and a lot more recently than that, Pete Carroll was right there with Chuck Cecil, Meriweather and every other hard-nosed defensive player resisting the changes that eventually would come to the game. The "warrior mentality" is what Carroll calls it, and he knows its appeal. He's been coaching defense for 35 years and building a dominant one in Seattle since 2010. His own hand-picked strong safety, Kam Chancellor, incurred $60,000 in fines in a two-week period back in 2011.
"We've been trying to teach our guys the right way all along because we have to comply with the rules, but still there was a sense in me that I was fighting it, like a lot of guys are and a lot of people still are," Carroll said.