There’s been a lot of football drama over the past week. One of the biggest issues is the helmet-to-helmet hitting that has resulted in a crack down by the NFL. Of course there is a definite tête-à-tête brewing (oh my gosh- with that pun I have officially turned into my mother… pray for me).
Those for the ban argue that concussions and other injuries while inevitable, are dangerous side effects of football. Those against the stricter guidelines maintain that hard hits are part of the game and that is a risk players take when they choose to play (and besides, it isn’t like they aren’t being well compensated!).
One of the central figures to the controversy is Steelers linebacker #92, James Harrison. Sigh. I love Harrison. He is what football is all about. He is an undrafted linebacker who is one of the keys of the Steelers defense. A beast. He plays hard and is considered perhaps one of the best defensive players in the NFL today. However last Sunday after two big hits against Cleveland Browns receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi, Harrison’s playing style is being questioned.
Now that we know the controversy, what exactly is the role of the linebacker? How come Harrison has two of these hits in one game? In order to understand that, it is necessary to understand the linebacker position. Let’s take a closer look!
Linebackers are members of the defensive team that line up behind the line of scrimmage and the defensive linemen. Generally speaking the linebackers responsibility is to take out whoever has the (misfortunate) job of carrying the ball. Typically the primary targets are backs: running, full and quarter. There are three linebacker positions that share these responsibilities: the Middle Linebacker, the Strongside linebacker and the Weakside linebacker. Their goals are collectively to stop the offense from gaining any yardage. These players tend to have the most tackles of any member of the defense. Consequently, it is also these positions that most frequently have serious hits with members of the offense.