Ditka Says ‘No' to Facemasks

Well, this would pretty much remove the "pansy" element from the NFL, wouldn't it?

Former Bears coach and current ESPN commentator Mike Ditka was in Pittsburgh Wednesday. He spoke to players at his alma mater, Pittsburgh, for some 15 minutes, and also promoted a restaurant opening in the area.

Ditka played back in the 1960s and 1970s, when the game was different. It wasn't played at the same speed, and 270-pound defensive ends didn't run or hit like they do now. Same goes for pretty much every other position on the field. Comparing eras is simply not a fair thing to do, but it doesn't stop people from trying.

Via PFT, we find out that Ditka also has some thoughts on the recent fines levied by the NFL for hard hits. Of course, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was stuck last week responding to Troy Polamalu calling the NFL a "pansy game". Ditka made some very interesting and pointed remarks on the matter.

"I said a long time ago if you want to change the game take the mask off the helmet," he said. "It will change the game a lot. If you want to change the game and get it back to where people aren't striking with the head and using the head as a weapon, take the mask off the helmet.

"A lot of pretty boys aren't going to stick their face in there. If you're going to take hitting out of football, you might as well just call it soccer. That's what I believe. A lot of people will be disappointed I said that, but football is what it is. [Vince] Lombardi said it a long time ago. Football is not a contact game. Dancing is a contact game. Football is a collision sport."

What a neat idea.

I wonder who these "pretty boys" are.

(Insert Tom Brady joke here.)

And I'm also curious how the player safety advocates would feel about this. There is actual validity to Ditka's argument. Players use their helmet as a weapon because there aren't often any physical repercussions to doing that. Most of the risk belongs to the player you hit with your helmet.

However, this does open the proverbial can of worms, because if you're going to use this tact, why not just go back to leather helmets? Then no one will be tempted to do anything head-first.

Listen, I think Ditka and Polamalu are right to an extent. I think we've gone too far in the NFL, especially when it comes to protecting quarterbacks, but it also goes for the other 21 players on the field at any given time. Should players be fined and/or suspended for flagrant helmet-to-helmet hits? Absolutely. But they shouldn't be fined for trying to finish a play or for playing hard. I fear we're getting really close to crossing that line.

But how is it going to help to take the facemasks off? Do we need more players suffering the injury Anquan Boldin had? I didn't think so.

Of course, if they did this, I bet Brett Favre would keep playing.

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