Andrew’s answers: Tuesday’s mailbag

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With the violent playrs from this weekend's games and today being the NFL trading deadline, the mailbag had a lot of questions on that subject, starting with…

What can be done about these violent hits that now seem to be everywhere?

“The issue” for the 2009 season was concussions, with high-profile players such as Brian Westbrook, Ben Roethlisberger, Clinton Portis and others sitting out due to head injuries. Last year, with awareness raised, the NFL reacted with measures requiring independent neurologists – rather than team medical personnel — to determine the proper time for the player to return to play, increased safety measures in training, and fired its own doctors chairing the panel on head injuries and brain trauma.

Now “the issue” is the root of the problem leading to concussions: the violent hits, with the most notable player affected being the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson.

I understand the reaction of the league to now consider suspensions. Unfortunately, this is a method of play that has been taught – and glamorized by the networks – for years. Do we really believe that James Harrison of the Steelers or Dunta Robinson of the Falcons played any differently on those violent plays than they have in playing football for the past fifteen years?

This is not a new problem. As we know, football is not a contact sport; it is a collision sport, a series of train wrecks that thousands of young men willingly sign up for every year. For every one of the 2000 players in the NFL, there are hundreds in line to take that job. Very few people around the game – players, coaches, administrators, even doctors – are thinking about long-term issues with the player; the focus is on the next practice, the next game, the next contract.

The steps now being taken by the league are admirable, even if reactionary. However, this is not an NFL problem. This is a football problem, with its roots sunk in way before these players enter the NFL.

One easy action step to take is for the networks to stop showing these violent hits repeatedly. In an hour of watching the pre-game show to Monday Night Football, I saw the crushing blow to DeSean Jackson eight times. Networks still have opening segments where helmets of the opposing teams crash into each other; videos are marketed with labels such as “Crunch Time”. At least ESPN has been wise to discontinue its “Jacked Up” segment that glorified the very hits we are critical of now.

Suspensions or not, there will be more bone-jarring hits from this coming weekend’s games and they will be shown over and over on highlight packages. This is a problem that will be hard to solve.

Why is there so little activity every year in the NFL at the trading deadline?

In past years, a stated reason for the lack of trading has been contract and Cap implications. With teams trying to pawn off players with bad contracts, acquiring teams have resisted in the past due to limited Cap room during the season.

Also, in past years, the trading team would accelerate unamortized depreciation on contracts at the time of trade. Although the accelerated amount would not hit the team’s Cap until the next year (as it would be post June 1), the rule still had a deterrent effect on trading.

That was then, this is now. With no 2010 Cap, there is no Cap acceleration for traded players in 2010. Also, with no 2010 Cap, there is no need to worry about fitting in big contracts acquired through trade. Among the reasons/excuses for lack of trading, the Cap is not one of them.

However, in this precarious time of labor uncertainty, cash ramifications are more important the Cap ramifications as a deterrent to trading. Spending is down, not up, in this uncapped year, and most teams are not in the buying mode, using the labor ambiguity as a reason for caution. Thus, big contracts offered up in trade may be free from a Cap point of view, but still have cash ramifications that teams are loath to take on right now.

Why is the trading deadline so early in the NFL season?

I always wondered the same. In Major League Baseball, with the trading deadline not until four months of the season has passed, there is always more activity – and thus more buzz surrounding the deadline – due to the late timing.

The reason stated by the NFL for the early deadline is to avoid exactly what baseball allows – the opportunity to “rent” players for the stretch drive of seasons, thereby tipping the balance of power to the bigger spending teams.

Although there has been one of those trades already in the NFL – with Randy Moss going to the Vikings from the Patriots – the league would say that 13 games of a 16 game season would classify more as a true trade rather than the mercenary rental in baseball. The Cliff Lee trade this year between the Mariners and Rangers in baseball, despite its impact on the playoff races, is not what the NFL envisions with its trading deadline.

I understand the league’s desire to limit late-season hired gun acquisitions, but the early deadline limits the “buzz” and “sizzle” that trading deadlines in other leagues create.

Follow me on Twitter at adbrandt.

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