It’s really upsetting to look at the highlights from yesterday’s Eagles game and see Giants players, time after time, leading with their head as they propel themselves into Michael Vick. Watch this video and check out the late push that almost knocks him over at 0:34, the helmet butt at 0:40, as well as the ridiculous helmet-to-helmet hit at 1:40. Vick is right that he doesn’t get the protection and the penalty flags that other QBs get–we’ve all thought it before, but it’s nice to finally here him say it even if it spawned from the frustration that follows a tough loss. Simply because Vick’s style is so unique and different than most other quarterbacks should not mean the rules are applied more leniently against him or more generously in favor of the defense.
Yes, with Vick scampering and scrambling about he is more likely to take hits. As a result, I’ve read that Vick does indeed receive more 15-yard penalty flags than most other quarterbacks in the league. But in terms of the percentage of hits for which Vick gets a flag, the referees are still lacking. They need to be more aware that Vick is literally a scrambling 15-yard penalty waiting to happen, and they need to be more willing to throw the flag, even if it means throwing one every play. Vick should be leading the league for penalties on excessive and/or late hits, yet he continues to get illegally clobbered without adequate protection from the refs.
It simply doesn’t make sense, something here does not compute. Vick is the most exciting player in the NFL–it’s in the NFL’s best interest to protect him, so why are they failing so miserably? It’s no secret that defenses go head hunting when they face Vick, everyone knows he’s a marked man. He’s only six feet tall and he’s not as built as other QBs…if you can knock him out of the game, you’ve got a better chance of winning. Why is the NFL not preventing the late hits and the hits where defensive players are leading with their helmets?
1. Perhaps the referees truly aren’t paying attention. That would be unacceptable, but I also don’t buy it. Moving on…
2. Perhaps because Vick more closely resembles a running back or wide receiver on the field (in terms of body-type), he doesn’t receive the heightened protection that is otherwise granted to quarterbacks. Now we’re getting closer. Yes, Vick finds himself in more positions on the field to be hit from various angles with varying degrees of impact…but the hits where players lead with their helmets? Those should be flagged every time. And the late hits that occur one or two seconds after Vick has released the ball? Or the hard shoves out of bounds when Vick is clearly on his way to the sideline, merely a half step from touching the white line? Those can go either way, but personally I think Vick should be getting the benefit of the doubt EVERY DAMN TIME. It’s unnecessary roughness, plain and simple, against one of the most exciting players in the league–and from the NFL’s perspective, perhaps their most important commodity. Vick makes them money and it doesn’t make sense for them to continually fail to to fully apply the player safety rules that were put in place specifically to protect him. So where’s the disconnect here?
3. Perhaps, finally, it has something to do with the elephant on the field. Perhaps Vick’s history with dog-fighting has warranted this unfair treatment, and because of that situation’s inextricable connection to Vick’s race, perhaps Vick is not receiving some of these calls because of the color of his skin. Not only does Vick’s body-type more closely resemble that of a running back or wide receiver, so too does his race. Other black quarterbacks in the NFL have 30 or 40 pounds on Vick, and they don’t move as athletically or with as much agility. When they get hit, it’s more noticeable and less engrained in our football memories than when a RB or WR gets hit, which occurs on almost every play. In short, even though it looks quite violent and jarring when Vick gets hit (thus you’d expect it to attract more attention), due to the fact that it does not resemble that which we’re used to seeing when a quarterback takes a hit (in terms of Vick’s style of play, body type, and race) we do not process the collission as we normally do for other quarterbacks. This, for whatever reason, has perhaps caused the refs to throw the flag less often when Vick gets hit. Is it because they think Vick is faking as he goes flying through the air? I simply don’t know, but I have a hunch there is bias involved.
This argument is, of course, impossible to prove, and is even a bit of a stretch, I admit. But I’m truly struggling to figure out why the NFL allows Vick to take beatings the way he does. You’ll have to excuse me for attempting to dig deep and at least try to explore the not-so-obvious reasoning behind all of this. Perhaps I’ll simply end with this video, and you can take from it what you wish. The video is from week one against the Rams. After a touchdown pass to DeSean, Vick celebrates with a little air guitar strum. Watch the video, then replay it again and again, starting at the 0:11 second mark.
At first, the ref gives Vick a little pat on the butt to try to move him out of the way. Then, after only another second, he sort of just pushes Vick out of the way, and there’s the briefest expression of pure disgust, pure hatred on that ref’s face. Maybe I’m the only one who sees it like that, but I’ve watched it over and over and something about it is really unsettling. I’ve never seen a ref do something like that while a player was celebrating. It makes me realize there are some people working for the NFL, some people really high up, as well as more than a few referees, I’m sure, who simply hate Mike Vick for the dog-fighting, and loathe the fact that he is back in “their” league. These are guys who’d happily shake the hand that Ben Roethlisberger used to molest and rape young women, and who’d have no qualms or hesitations about throwing the 15-yard penalty flag if Brady, Manning, Brees, or Rodgers are even touched in the slightest.
It’s going to be a long and difficult journey as the Eagles try to rebound and continue their quest for the Super Bowl. As of now, one thing is clear: they’re not going to get any favors from the NFL along the way.