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Archive for Saturday, November 2, 2002

In NFL, the hits just keep on coming

League needs to strike back against players who aim too high

November 2, 2002

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— Pedro Alcazar was taking a shower in his Las Vegas hotel room preparing for a flight home to Panama City. Until that moment last June, he'd felt just fine, despite having lost his title 36 hours earlier in what was his boxing debut in the United States.

He took a number of hard punches to the head, but a couple of post-fight examinations by a neurologist and a physician found him suffering no ill effects. Alcazar felt so good the next day, in fact, that he spent it sightseeing on the Las Vegas Strip.

But before he got out of the shower early that Monday morning, he collapsed. And died.

The story came back to mind Sunday at Texas Stadium in the aftermath of Emmitt Smith Appreciation Day. For while everyone was celebrating his great feat after the game, Seattle Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson was convulsing on the floor in the visitors' locker room. Teammates restrained him. Doctors stabilized him. Paramedics strapped him to a gurney and rushed him to a hospital.

Jackson was released from Dallas' Baylor Medical Center on Monday afternoon.

The apparent cause of Jackson's troubles was a fourth-quarter hit he sustained from Cowboys safety Darren Woodson. Jackson was extending in the air for a pass. Woodson fired his 6-1, 215-pound frame at Jackson, striking Jackson high with his upper body.

Jackson fell stiffly to earth. He was knocked out. Flags flew immediately. Trainers rushed to Jackson's aid. Woodson was charged with unnecessary roughness. Cowboys fans booed. Woodson and his coaches protested.

Eventually, Jackson was helped off the field. He didn't return to the game. He was said to be talking to a teammate in the locker room when he was overcome by what one doctor said was probably a lack of oxygen to the brain.

That is as scary as it sounds and as frightening as the scene it created in the Seattle locker room.

The NFL's disciplinarian, Gene Washington, hadn't reviewed the tape of Woodson's hit on Jackson by Monday morning. The league was busy listening to San Diego safety Rodney Harrison explain why his one-game suspension for leveling Oakland receiver Jerry Rice with a helmet-to-helmet hit a weekend earlier should be overturned. One reason Harrison offered was that it didn't draw a flag. Big deal.

Washington wasn't likely to be sympathetic toward Harrison anyway, because Harrison came to him as a multiple offender of striking opponents in the head or with his head.

But the NFL's sheriff should never go lightly on any player who hits another one above the shoulders for the good of the game and the well being of the players.

Fingering such hits does not have to be an indictment of a player's character, just a reminder of a danger to avoid.

"We're sensitive to that issue," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

And as hard as it is in the heat of the game, players need to be sensitive to the issue as well. The line between being violent and being vicious may be a thin one that can be accidentally crossed, but it is vital that it be maintained.

Otherwise, the NFL is going to have a Pedro Alcazar on its record. It already has a Darryl Stingley.

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