Jon Bostic fined; NFL walking dangerous line on player safety

Jon Bostic fined; NFL walking dangerous line on player safety
Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

The YouTube comments underneath the most popular video of Jon Bostic's hit on Thursday night against Mike Willie of the San Diego Chargers reads like a Reddit thread. That's because the hit — the spectacular, bone-crushing, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring hit — has already gone viral with over 114,000 views.

It's taken a particularly entertaining turn since news came down that the NFL has fined Jon Bostic a staggering $21,000 for a play that did not go penalized during Thursday night's action. The NFL and Roger Goodell are the primary targets, while some apparent Mike Willie sympathizers/contrarians have taken the safety stance.

And while it will be interesting to see how rules officials ultimately explain the fine — Fox's Mike Pereira has been adamant that the league intends to crack down on any hits a player makes with his head down, even if the contact is below the shoulders — the NFL is now walking a dangerously fine line on the issue of player safety.

Jon Bostic has always been a physical player.

One look at his highlight tape from Florida shows a downhill linebacker who shows up at the point of attack with a certain viciousness about him. In last year's Sugar Bowl, he laid out Teddy Bridgewater, a potential Top Five pick in next year's NFL Draft, although he was penalized for coming a little high.

However, a physical player isn't always necessarily a dirty player. Thursday night's hit was clean by most standard football definitions over the course of the last century.

Yet, in the new NFL, we run the almost certain risk of losing some of that physicality. It's a fine line, because the violence is ultimately what endears us to the game in the first place, but health consciousness leaves cause for concern that there might not be enough players willing to take on the risks in the coming generations.

However, what makes Bostic's fine more frustrating than anything is the general hypocrisy of the NFL. They fine Jon Bostic in the interest of player safety, or so they claim, yet at the same time they're touting the hit as spectacular on their website and generating revenue off its traffic.

Now, you can go out and make the game safer in an effort to protect your future interests, but if you're going to villainize something as dangerous, you can't capitalize on its awesomeness at the same time. Well ... you can play both sides of the same coin, but you can't really expect anybody to take you seriously.

I certainly understand the need to address long term issues concerning head trauma in football, and with that understanding comes the realization that you have to make it expensive to change the culture of the league. Starting with eliminating the helmet-to-helmet contact that seems to result in so many concussive injuries is a good start, and lowering the target zone, as controversial as that has been, is a good start, as well.

However, the idea that people aren't going to use their helmets entirely is asinine. Why even wear them at all? Former Pittsburgh Steelers star and current NBC Sports analyst Hines Ward thinks the best way to protect against concussions is to take the helmet off completely.

That may be extreme, but when you're asking somebody to run and bend and wrap and drive, you're going to have the helmet be the initial point of contact in most instances.

In the case of Jon Bostic, yes, his head was down. However, Bostic lowered his target area (a point of major emphasis by the NFL) and he got his helmet out in front of the receiver, ultimately having it make contact on his upfield shoulder.

That's textbook in most circles, yet because of the thunderous results, Bostic finds himself fined a hefty sum. And while some of you may make the "they're all rich, so who cares" argument, understand that $21,000 is 5% of the $405,000 base salary Jon Bostic will collect this season.

To add some context, if you were making $20,000 a year and living paycheck-to-paycheck, that'd be the equivalent of you getting a $1,000 speeding ticket. And, as anyone who lives paycheck-to-paycheck knows, a $1,000 unexpected expense would be somewhat crippling.

Jon Bostic will probably be okay financially in the long haul, but make no mistake about it, fining the rookie $21,000 is going to be a real punch in the gut. What's even worse is, as an impressionable young rookie, you worry about it changing his mentality.

That hit personifies the way Bostic has always played the game, so to tell him that he's done something wrong on a play that didn't even draw a flag is sort of like walking up to a perfectly constructed house and telling the carpenter he got a little too aggressive with the nails.

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Filed under: NFL, Players

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