December 6, 2012
The Monday night tilt between the Houston Texans and New England Patriots has yet to even kick off, and already Roger Goodell is hitting players in the wallet. Before a single snap has been played, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has been fined an eye-watering $150,000 in anticipation of an illegal hit against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
"We at the NFL take player safety incredibly seriously," said Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement about Watt's illegal future hit, "and we don't even want to risk the possibility of lasting harm to our players."
The fine is the result of a recent change to an obscure rule which allows for punishment of players for illegal acts they might commit. One local blog has taken to calling this new obscure rule the "Pollard Rule" after the most infamous player to cause serious injury to one of the biggest stars in the league: Bernard Pollard. Punishments range from fines for simply lining up against what the league terms an "at-risk" player, such as Brady, to heavier fines for possible illegal hits all the way up to four game suspensions for each individual sack registered against these "at risk" players.
"We've been looking over Watt's activity lately, and he's developing a history of illegal hits, what with that incredible cheap shot he took against [Lions quarterback] Matthew Stafford on Thanksgiving. That, combined with the potential risk of injury to a player as popular and wonderful..and jaw-dropping gorgeous as Mr. Brady," added Goodell with a dreamy look in his eye, "and we felt it was prudent to levy such a heavy fine on a cheap shot artist like Watt."
Reaction to the new "Pollard Rule" has been understandably mixed. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, already the focus of several other rule changes, seemed to be in favor of this new player protection rule. He said, after stepping out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his hair, that "this is a monumental step forward for player safety." As he slipped into his Uggs, he added that "I don't make the rules, I only play by the ones in the books." He then screamed at the sound of an unseen thud in the distance and declared the interview over.
Other players, like J.J. Watt, were less enthusiastic about it. "I just...I don't know what to say," said the mild-mannered MVP candidate. Watt, it should be known, is second in the league in sacks with 16.5 and has 15 passes deflected, so it's possible the Commissioner's concerns might not have been totally out of left field, though Watt doesn't see it that way. "If I have to be fined to play the game I love, then I'll pay it." When asked if he holds any kind of grudge against Brady or Goodell, Watt simply shrugged, "No. They're quality guys, and even though it'll hinder my ability to operate the "Dream Big Work Hard Foundation", I really look forward to facing off against him on Monday," he said with a malevolent gleam in his eye.
Oddly, one of the players who strenuously objects to the "Pollard Rule" is Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.
"This rule is a joke. It's an opportunity for the league to show blatant favoritism of one player over another. When I heard about this rule, I thought it would finally level the playing field for us quarterbacks; you know, prevent unnecessary injuries and maybe let us just play the game. When I asked for the 'Pollard Rule' to be enforced on Ndamukong Suh for kicking me in my happy place, I was refused! I couldn't believe my ear and a half!"
As it turns out, Suh's cheap shot on Schaub cannot be applied to the "Pollard Rule." When asked why, Commissioner Goodell stated simply that, "The 'Pollard Rule' can only be used on a discretionary basis. This rule is on the books for players who are at legitimate risk for pre-injury and against players with a predilection for violent and illegal hits and we can't go about using it on just anybody. That would be an abuse of the rules, and I won't have that on my watch." He then looked around the room, clutching a pink spiral notebook to his chest and said, "Has anybody seen Brady around, by the way?"
Watt and Schaub, among other players, intend to file a grievance with the NFLPA regarding the legality of this new rule. Whether it will hold up to the scrutiny of a legal proceeding is anybody's guess, though with Goodell's inclination for unilateral action, football fans may be living with the mess that Bernard Pollard started for a very long time.