In a day and age where everyone is trying to make the game of football safe, Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Mitchell safety says it can’t be done. He joined The Jim Rome Show on Friday and talked about the complexity of implementing such “safe” idealism into the violent sport and acknowledged the fine line of learning from the sport’s former players but knowing you can’t change the inherit danger of the game.
“From the standpoint of talking to some of the older players that tell us how beat up they are and finding out everything about head injuries and everything, you do want to think about life outside of football,” Mitchell said. “You do because obviously all of us are human beings, and we all do stuff. We have about 8 or 9 hours a day where we are football players and then the others hours we are normal human beings, so there is kind of line there that you want to toe, but ultimately man, this is what you signed up to do.”
Mitchell compared the safety of the NFL to that of mixed martial arts.
“I don’t know how you can make a sport that’s so violent safe,” Mitchell said. “I’d be curious to see how Dana White could make the UFC a safe sport. It’s just by nature of what you are. It is a violent sport, and if you look at football, it is required that two men must put their body on each other. Whether it’s making a tackle or blocking a guy, it’s going to be a violent collision. So as players, we just got to try to toe the line as best we can. I think the league is trying to make it better.”
The hard hitting safety also said the rule changes on hitting seem to be one-sided, and that is to punish his side of the ball.
“If you could have seen a chop block I got last week,” Mitchell said about his most recent game against the Kansas City Chiefs. “I mean, I got high-lowed by a back low and the tackle hit me up high and ended up getting flipped. Thank God I’m a praying man, and I got my knee out of the ground because that could have been catastrophic. There was no penalty called on the play either. So if we’re talking about player safety, stuff like that needs to get looked at stuff like that needs to get called.”
When asked if the sport is now basketball on grass, Mitchell said no.
“It’s not basketball on grass because if you watch me play, I’m making sure that it’s not basketball on grass,” Mitchell chuckled. “We just had to change how we hit them. You have to be more careful, you can’t go as high as you use to go. You have to go lower. There’s still safeties in the game, there’s still linebackers in the game. It’s just we’re becoming more skillful in how we hit you and go about our business.
“I’m not the only one out here that still wants to play full speed tackle, hard-nosed football. There’s plenty of guys like me. We are just trying to, it’s just getting far and few between because I feel like the fines are so expensive and the leagues just calling it more.”
Mitchell said the league has made the game easier for the offense in an effort to drive more interest in the sport.
“I really think a lot of that has to do with the league wanting offense and wanting to score. You know I hate Fantasy Football, I can’t stand it,” Mitchell said. “I know a lot of the fans of the game love it because it helps them get engaged, involved with the game, but it’s really killing us as defenders, because you know, it’s really hard for us to even play defense.
“You can’t touch a guy when they’re past five yards, but yet they’re allowed to push off of us. Receivers are allowed to duck into contact which you could be aiming low, but if they duck into the hit and you hit them in the head, it’s a 15-yard flag and $30,000 dollars out of your pocket.”
Mitchell said the league could use some defensive guys on their rules committee.
“I think the league is trying to do the right thing, it’s just a work in progress. They got to keep refining it, and working at it and looking at it every year,” Mitchell said. “I think they need more defensive players on the committee that help make these rules.”