DAVIS: Stop the head hunters

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Has there been a more dangerous, illegal hit than the one Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Simoni Lawrence inflicted on Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Zach Collaros?

Even some of the CFL’s all-time bad-asses — like Kyries Hebert, James Curry, Mike Campbell, Angelo Mosca, Jason Jimenez and Khalif Mitchell — would be hard-pressed to muster the malice required for launching themselves at the head of a sliding, vulnerable quarterback with a history of concussions.

Accidental headshots happen. Head-hunting shouldn’t.

The punishment needs to be severe. Lawrence’s despicable hit actually helped his team win Thursday’s CFL opener. Without their starting quarterback, the Roughriders deployed two newcomers and stayed close before losing 23-17.

Collaros was helped off-field while yelling angrily at his former teammate and went for concussion protocol before returning to the sideline, without shoulder pads, to watch the remainder of the game.

Lawrence remained in the contest, recording six tackles, one sack and an interception, setting an example for future head-hunters that they can contribute to a victory in any fashion and still be in uniform for the on-field, post-game celebrations.

The CFL, indeed, all football, wants to eliminate hits like Lawrence’s, which cause concussions and can end a player’s career. The CFL is especially motivated by its attempts to fend off  concussion-related lawsuits by former players.

Three offensive plays into the opener, Lawrence was penalized for roughing the passer. The 15-yard penalty was topped up to 25 yards following a discussion among the officials and, one day afterward, the CFL reportedly believes Lawrence should also have been ejected.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has repeatedly said the safety of his league’s players is paramount. Precedent shows the CFL is reluctant to impose multi-game suspensions, even for egregious on-field fouls, but in this instance justice cannot be blind.

Everyone can see Lawrence crashing recklessly, shoulder-first into a defenceless, sliding Collaros’ helmet, an action that should cost the linebacker at least two games. Ambrosie needs to mete out discipline stern enough to show Lawrence — and any other potential head-hunters — the game really is trying to change.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.