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Warren Moon, it seems, is going to have to have some help opening his Christmas presents.

Either that or he is going to have to secure the packages to the floor with one foot, then use his good hand to rip the paper off them -- an act that might help ease his frustrations, come to think of it.

If Wade Wilson is to see what Santa brought him, he is going to have to do the same thing. And so is Jim Harbaugh. And Troy Aikman. And Bernie Kosar.

Jim Kelly shouldn't have any problems opening his presents, provided he can hobble over to the tree to get them.

Phil Simms will be a little slow making it to his stack of presents as well, not to mention Anthony Dilweg.

Steve DeBerg, it should be pointed out, has been given an aid in opening his presents. All he has to do is insert the pin that is sticking out of one of his fingers into a seam in the wrapping and just slide it along until his presents are revealed.

All of the aforementioned gentlemen, NFL quarterbacks each and every one, will spend this particular Christmas in some form of discomfort as a result of one or more bones in their bodies being moved into areas where they do not belong.

And their shoulders, fingers, feet and knees are only the ones that have been twisted out of shape during the last two weekends.

Let's not forget about Don Majkowski and Chris Miller, who served as a sort of preliminary to the carnage to come.

Quarterbacks from Atlanta, Green Bay, the New York Giants, Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago, Kansas City, Green Bay again, Houston, Minnesota and Dallas all recently have been knocked down and some of them out.

DeBerg actually played well with his broken finger Sunday, leading the Kansas City Chiefs into the playoffs. But he obviously was the fortunate one.

Small wonder San Francisco coach George Seifert looked around the league last Sunday and suggested to Joe Montana he wear something tasteful in street attire rather than one of those ugly gold helmets.

But who can blame Seifert? With reports of wholesale mayhem coming in from varying reporting stations, why risk becoming part of the trend?

So now the questions will come forth. What can be done to keep quarterbacks healthy? The game is being ruined, the multitude will roar. If we can put a man on the moon and grow bigger catfish, why can't we protect the quarterbacks? Can airbags be brought into play?

One has to go back only a few years to find the answer to this oft-asked question about quarterback safety. And the answer is we can't do anything.

Not unless the powers of the NFL want to turn the sport into a form of "touch football."

Football is based, one always must remember, on violence. People watch the sport because of regional pride (our guys in Winnerville are tougher than those wimps in Loserland) and to see one of their heroes render someone on the opposing team senseless.

When Aikman was sprawled on the ground in pain Sunday, for example, the fans in Philadelphia cheered. Giants fans did the same when Kelly was injured the previous week.

So are the fans ready for quarterbacks to be declared off limits? Not likely.

When he was head of the NFL's competition committee, Tex Schramm said he thought everything that could be done to protect a quarterback already was in the rule books. The "grasp and control" rule is there. Personal foul penalties are called at the slightest provocation when a quarterback hits the deck.

"We have decided," Schramm said, "that the only way to do more in the area of protecting the quarterback is to change the nature of the game."

By that, he meant rules changes that would forbid quarterbacks being touched. Like the 24-second clock in the NBA, there could be a clock in the NFL that would count off the time in which a quarterback could hold the ball before throwing it.

And what happens when time runs out? Can the quarterback still run until he is touched? And what about the close calls? Did Lawrence Taylor actually brush Randall Cunningham's jersey as he went by or not?

"I got him," Taylor says. "No, you didn't," the ref replies. "Well," Taylor suggests, "next time, I'll make sure I get him."

Then we would be right back where we started, with Cunningham nursing broken ribs, Taylor sitting out a suspension and lawyers getting involved.

The problem is clearly for one of those privately funded think tanks. Or, perhaps, a government study that will give us an answer early in the next century. At this stage, therefore, there seems to be little else to do except hope for a Merry Christmas and double check those insurance premiums.

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