I should have known that whenever Devin Thomas is playing a prominent role in the outcome of an important football game, his contributions aren't quite what they seem. Thomas, the Giants special teamer (and former receiving bust for the Redskins), recovered both of 49er return man Kyle Williams' fumbles in the NFC title game. Those two fumbles provided the Giants with ten critical points and left Williams forever branded as one of the biggest goats in playoff history.
Thomas told Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi that the secret to getting Williams to fumble was the fact that Williams had suffered concussions and needed to be hit:
“He’s had a lot of concussions. We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on that guy,’ ” Thomas said. “(Tyler) Sash did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up.”
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Now, given all that we know about concussions, and all the stories that have come out about retired NFL players suffering from brain damage, dementia, and PTSD, this was not a particularly eloquent thing to say. Thomas has a long history of putting his foot in his mouth, and openly saying his team targeted a player because of his concussion history is just another notch in his belt.
But strategically, the Giants didn't do anything wrong. The only mistake Thomas made was to simply admit the truth. Football is an inherently violent sport. And hitting the opposing player very hard is a legitimate winning strategy. The Giants know this well because they pounded Tom Brady into the ground in the 2007 Super Bowl, and that was what helped them pull the upset. Assuming your aim is to hit hard and hit within the rules, there's nothing wrong with having an explicit goal of hitting the other player as hard as possible, particularly one you know has a history of being hit hard.
Defenses target injured players all the time. If the QB has a bad shoulder, you hit him in that shoulder. If a running back has a broken rib, you wrap him up tight. If you're doing all this within the rules, you're being violent in an NFL-approved, family-friendly manner. If you take out a fork and jam it into that QB's shoulder, then you've gone overboard. But otherwise? Hunky dory.
There were no "dirty" hits on Williams in the NFC title game. His first fumble came on a misplay of the punt. He wasn't even hit. But because Thomas dropped the c-word, he brought in all of the baggage that comes with it, including people who HATE football and see it as barbaric in any light.
Thomas' only error was to admit the ugliness of football violence that is already out there for all to see. It's a dangerous game, kids. Don't try it at home.