Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Concussions as a football strategm

The Giants' win over the 49ers in a magnificent throwback conference championship game at Candlestick Park yesterday turned on two fumbles by 49ers punt returner Kyle Williams, an obscure second-year player. That made Kyle Williams personally responsible for ten points in a game that ended 20-17. And the Giants, interviewed in the happy haze of the winning locker room, casually noted a provocative element of their game plan: They'd targeted Williams for extra violence because they knew he had suffered several concussions in the past, and they think it worked. ...

Devin Thomas, the reserve wide receiver who recovered both of Kyle Williams's fumbles, was even more explicit. “He’s had a lot of concussions," Thomas told the Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi. "We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on that guy.’ ... [Giants reserve safety 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.” ...

It certainly sounds like the Giants' special teams players were told about Williams's history of concussions, and that they went after him because of it. (That this has so far drawn no attention from beat reporters suggests that such planning is commonplace). It's impossible to know whether Thomas is right — if Williams in fact was concussed or woozy during the game — but he didn't look himself yesterday: There was the third-quarter punt that skimmed off his knee after he seemed to dawdle, unsure whether to pick it up or let it roll, and at least two punts that he fair-caught though he had plenty of room to run. Sports Illustrated's Ann Killion also noticed "a fumble on a reverse that he fell on, a strange sideways diving catch on another punt that could have been disaster."
--Benjamin Wallace-Wells, New York, on dirty tactics