Matt Schaub suffered a devastating hit at the hands of Broncos linebacker Joe Mays yesterday during the Texans-Broncos game. Schaub, who was laid out by the trucking Mays, lost his helmet because of the hit and a little something else: a chunk of his ear lobe.
A writhing Schaub stayed on the ground, hunched over and cupping a hand to his bloodied head before heading to the sidelines. There was a flag on the play for an illegal hit against the Texans quarterback and it was the second penalty in a row for the Broncos who went on to lose the match-up 31-25. Eventually, Schaub returned to the field, where he failed to complete a pass in the Texans’ next two offensive possessions.
This reminded me of a scene that has forever been burned into my brain from the 1999 movie “Any Given Sunday,” the one where Al Pacino coaches a Cameron Diaz-owned football team struggling to make the playoffs, and where Jamie Foxx is the fictional team Miami Shark’s reluctant third-to-first string quarterback. (Spoiler Alert coming!)
In the scene an opposing player in a gold jersey gets injured during a play, and when the dog-pile of burly men clears we find out that this man has indeed lost his eye, optic nerve and all as it lays out on the Astroturf.
Whether or not it is possible to scoop out an eye through a facemask, I have no idea. It may just be Hollywood’s special effects at its most realistically gruesome, but Schaub’s accident Sunday is not a far cry from Hollywood gore. No, Schaub’s suffering is real, which is perhaps the scariest thing about the escalating brutality of football.
The NFL only seems to punish individual players if they happen to throw a punch. The most bone-rattling hits these days are only given a small yellow flag and a 15-yard penalty.
The NFL, who has come under scrutiny in the past couple of years for the brutality of tackles, has implemented strict discipline guidelines regarding helmet-to-helmet contact. There is no doubt that Mays will be fined for the illegal hit on Schaub, but even the rigid fines for rough hits raise questions for the future of the sport.