Paterno, Ditka offer solutions to dicey hits
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010,
Penn State coach Joe Paterno and Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka agree on one way to possibly eliminate helmet-to-helmet hits in football: Get rid of the facemask.
"I have been saying (it) for 15 years," Paterno said. "Then, you would get back to shoulder blocking and shoulder tackling and you wouldn't have all those heroes out there. Guys (would) have to worry about broken noses, knocked-out teeth, which we would like to prevent, but you don't get anything for nothing.
"We used to have one single bar; now we have a weapon."
Ditka, a former Pitt All-American tight end and Super Bowl-winning coach of the Chicago Bears, said Monday on ESPN Radio that pass catchers were getting "necktied" coming across the middle as long ago as the 1950s.
"The league is now paying more attention to it," he said.
Ditka said the hit on Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson by the Atlanta Falcons' Dunta Robinson on Sunday was legal.
"But the results aren't what you want out of pro football," he said. "Somebody is going to get hurt very, very badly. I'm sure (Jackson) is going to have a headache for a lot of weeks."
Ditka went even further with his opinion, remarking that if no one wore helmets, there would not be an increase in head injuries.
"I don't think people would strike with the head as much," he said. "You would learn to strike with the shoulder pads if you didn't have a helmet on your head."
On a less radical note, he said, "You take the facemasks off the helmets and those pretty boys aren't going to be doing all this stuff."
Meanwhile, West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said his school carefully monitors big hits by its players.
"You get a letter of reprimand, a suspension and you can even get an ejection," he said. "I try my best to run a very clean program. I've been talking with (Big East) supervisor of officials Terry McAulay about the penalties and how to clean them up. If you err on the side of safety, and you continue to call it, then maybe we can help youngsters."
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