Former Florida State Quarterback Chris Rix Talks to From image

Football's Illegal Hits Ruling Full of Gray Areas

Chris Rix on big hits in the NFL and NCAA
By Ryan Fowler,
October 29th, 2010

See what you hit.

Pop Warner coaches have been preaching the message for decades.

This is a contact sport.

It's a repeated warning that provoked worried mothers to panic and then pray their little boys walk off the field.

This was football's reputation a decade ago.

"Now it's a collision sport," former Florida State quarterback Chris Rix said.

Rix, a college football analyst for Fox Sports, says the biggest hit he witnessed as a player came on a soggy night in the fall of 2003 when playing Miami (FL). Hurricanes' wide receiver Roscoe Parrish ran a drag route over the middle, quarterback Brock Berlin delivered the pass on target, it slipped through the hands of Parrish when FSU cornerback Stanford Samuels launched himself as if exiting Red October into the sternum of what is now known as a "defenseless receiver."

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No flags were thrown.

No players were ejected.

The video of the punishing hit still lingers on the internet.

Rix says if Samuels tried that aerial assault today, he would be flagged for unnecessary roughness - leading with the helmet.

This leads to the topic of the month and the way illegal hits are enforced.

The NFL's decision to re-evaluate the way defensive players attack their prey has created a polarizing topic between former and current players and the league's fan base.

"My first thought was this is good," Rix said. "There is more awareness now. More team doctors are being proactive about it. I think the intent is good."

However, overwhelming shades of gray clouded the more stringent policies as soon as the NFL released this video.

I've watched the Ray Lewis hit ten times and, apart from the Ravens' linbacker avoiding the head area, can't distinguish how this hit is obviously clean. He hopped out of a phone booth before he blew up Dustin Keller.

"I think it's really hard to regulate this," Rix said. "Growing up all we heard football was this is a contact sport. If there is any gray area I don't think you can kick a guy out and fine a guy. He plays a dangerous sport. It's just part of the game."

But in the same breath, Rix, as a former quarterback, believes defenders needed this wake up call when it comes to the way some of them approach tackling.

"As a quarterback, yes I'm happy with the new enforcement," Rix said. "Some type of statement needs to be made. Some of these defenders aren't even making an attempt at a tackle. They are just going for that big kill shot."

Although the players cannot be fined at the college level, Rix says NCAA officials need to implement a similar policy when a defender leads with his head.

"College athletes are just as big, fast and strong as these professional players," Rix said. "It's a different breed of athlete than even ten or 15 years ago. I think you apply the same rules. If they are just going for the kill shot, then boom, their done and up for review for the next game."

The NFL and NCAA can enforce stricter rules, defenders can adapt and obey, but this does not change the fact that football is a violent and dangerous sport.

The NFL's quick action to re-define and clarify their rule book in addition to evolve the safety measures currently in place may attempt to protect the head area of their players (which I'm in favor of), but it also covers the league's own butt if legal matters were to arise in the future.

Oops, I hit it right on the head.

At least I saw it.

Fine me.

Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for He can be reached at

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