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posted: 11/17/2012 7:53 PM

Bears, Cutler suffer while NFL fiddles

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  • Trainers look at Bears quarterback Jay Cutler after Cutler took a late hit by Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins in the first half last Sunday. Dobbins was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, and Cutler did not return in the second half after suffering a concussion.

    Trainers look at Bears quarterback Jay Cutler after Cutler took a late hit by Texans linebacker Tim Dobbins in the first half last Sunday. Dobbins was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, and Cutler did not return in the second half after suffering a concussion.
    Associated Press


If this concussion discussion is at times enough to give you a headache, you're not alone.

In the wake of Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and Mike Vick all going down on the same Sunday, there was much talk last week, and most of it nonsensical.

First, the Bears were accused of malfeasance and their trainers and doctors suspected of malpractice.

Those are all serious claims -- and they're all wrong.

Lovie Smith can't pull his starting quarterback from the game when the starting quarterback is pretending to be fine. Cutler's had at least five concussions before this one and he knows how to fake it and play through the fog until his head clears.

How is that Smith's fault?

If you benched a player after every hard hit, or every hit to the head, you'd have to dress 200 players for every NFL game.

In this case, Cutler's symptoms got worse instead of better, he fessed up, and the Bears sat him.

And what was the medical staff supposed to do?

You have kids in high school tanking their baseline tests so when they actually get dinged they can stay on the field or get back for the next game.

Gee, think a pro football player can figure that out?

Cutler did what most NFL players do, which is pretend he was OK until he couldn't pretend anymore. Like it or not, think it's smart or not, that's what players do and until the team knows the truth, the team can't do anything else.

As for changing the protocol, what else can the NFL do? I heard Muhammad Ali -- many years ago -- talk about the dream world he would fade into when he was knocked silly.

Ali said he was so good at pretending he was fine by yapping at the other fighter that his opponent wouldn't know he was out of it. He said sometimes his head wouldn't clear for days and no one around him knew it.

As sad as it is to see Ali today, he's all the example any player should need to tell the truth and change the culture of lying.

That's after the fact. As for the game, the NFL is violent, hard-hitting and vicious. It's one of the reasons fans love it and one of the reasons it's the most popular game on the planet.

Some concussions are a result of clean hits, and you'll never completely remove them from the game unless you want to watch ballet. Nothing against ballet, but 16 Sundays a year are reserved for violent, NFL football.

Then, there are the dirty hits that the NFL has tried to legislate out of the game, adding rule after rule, year after year, in an attempt to make the game safer -- especially for quarterbacks.

So what do you do about the play on which Jay Cutler was concussed last Sunday night?

Tim Dobbins got 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. The hit was late, it was to his chin, it was with a helmet, and it was roughing the quarterback.

That's like, what, 12 flags right there? Unnecessary? Yeah, I'd say so.

It was a dirty play designed to knock a guy out, which it did. What's complicated about that?

With Cutler being called for throwing the pass after he crossed the line of scrimmage, the Bears didn't even get the 15 yards on the play, and it wiped out a 42-yard gain on the throw to Devin Hester.

It knocked Cutler out for the second half of last week's game and Monday night's game in San Francisco, if not more.

The Bears got precisely nothing for their trouble, and Cutler gained the misery of a concussion.

Dobbins was fined $30,000, which is not even a full game check for the Houston linebacker.

He knocked the opposing quarterback out of the game, and it played a huge role in why his team won a game. The Texans will be grateful for the hit, and it may help him get a job again next year.

And he knew exactly what he was doing.

Cutler pumped once and that slowed Dobbins to nearly a complete stop. After Cutler reloaded and released, the distance between the two players was more than two yards, or close to 7 feet.

Dobbins had time to decide. He started forward again and launched his head at the QB after Cutler had given up the football.

Cutler and the Bears paid a huge price, the Texans nothing and Dobbins less than a game check, yet the NFL just docked a ref a full game check for swearing with his microphone on.

That math work for you?

If you want a deterrent, make it a 30-yard penalty that really hurts the team, pick up the flag on the offensive player regardless of the penalty (unless it's also a hit to the head), and fine the team $300,000.

You want to stop players from leading with their heads or targeting the head, make it painful for the team. Then, maybe, players will stop that kind of blatant attempt to injure another player.

If that doesn't do it, and if the NFL is really serious about removing this type of action from the game, make the fines and the penalties even more damaging.

Sometimes, these plays aren't clear cut and aren't that easy to call.

But in the case of Jay Cutler and Tim Dobbins, there was nothing vague or confusing about it.

Absolutely nothing.

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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