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George Iloka and Mike Mitchell are right to be concerned about the direction of football

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 3:32 PM

Iloka says NFL made right decision

Since the Steelers beat the Bengals in an extremely physical game Monday night, I’ve been trying to figure out how to say what George Iloka said Thursday

After Steelers safety Mike Mitchell expressed concerns about turning the NFL into a flag football league, Iloka doubled down even though his suspension for a high hit on Antonio Brown was overturned. 

“I personally think, like Mike said, if you start suspending guys for that, the league is going to turn into a brand of football in which, if you’re worried about losing viewers, you’ll lose a lot more,” Iloka said.

“Fines. Understandable. Repeat offenders. Understandable. Plays away from the ball, off ball incidents, post-whistle kind of things. OK, all right. Those might warrant suspensions if deemed unreasonable.” 

Iloka, who was penalized 15 yards for “unnecessary roughness” after he hit Brown on a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter Monday night, correctly drew a line between what should be legal and what should not. 

“But on-ball kind of plays, which are football plays, to suspend for that is going to set a bad precedent to where guys are just going to pull up and give away things,” Iloka added. 

In some ways, changes to the rules have forced defensive players to play a more sound brand of ball, but they are still left with some unfair choices — like letting a player catch a ball if the only place to hit him was in the upper chest and neck area because that might lead to an accidental head hit (I’m thinking of the Jabrill Peppers hit against the Bengals two weeks ago as an example). 

“Quarterbacks are going to throw into tight windows and you’ll be in that situation a lot,” Iloka said. “It feels like what am I supposed to do? What would you want your safety on your team to do? Just concede us a touchdown?

“That’s not how anybody should want the game to be,” he added. “Not a fan, not a coach and not a player. Period. I think that’s what (Mitchell) sees. He’s like man, if you’re suspended after football plays, what are we doing? We’re not playing football anymore. It’s just flag football. If you want a flag, go to your local college intramural league, not what we’re doing here.”

Now, I’m trying not to be a caveman here. 

I admit there are hits I grew up celebrating that are literally “unnecessary,” and Mitchell and Iloka have both gone over the line at times themselves. 

The game will go on without some of those highlight hits. Maybe when they’re gone, they won’t really be missed.

But what about plays that can’t be made without contact to the head or neck area?

Do we really want to tell defensive players to concede catches because they aren’t sure exactly where their target is going to be in another second or two?

Or, as Iloka pointed out, to have more plays like Monday night when William Jackson III pulled up at the sideline because he was afraid of getting a personal foul for hitting Le’Veon Bell out of bounds? 

I don’t think so. 

Undoubtedly, safety is important, both for the current players and for future players and of course their parents. 

To that end, the most significant change so far is how concussions are dealt with after the fact. 

Most if not all of the ex-players who have made news for having health issues played not just before we started cracking down on the high hits but also before anyone thought much about going right back into a game despite possibly having a concussion. 

And even if they stayed out that day, how many returned to play way too soon the following week? 

»RELATED: Bengals Weekend Forecast: First look at the Chicago Bears

I believe that alone will change outcomes significantly, but obviously there is much more research to be done. 

Even fairly early in the research process, there have been some encouraging signs in terms of treating brain injuries in the long term, but that’s another discussion. And of course it doesn’t mean we should start treating brain injuries like torn knee ligaments or broken arms. 

Regardless, parents aren’t dumb. They know the game is still violent and dangerous and that only so much can be done to change that without creating a new sport. 

It has survived for a dozen or so decades despite this knowledge. 

So if we’ve reached a crossroads with these high hits, what do we do? 

I believe most of the truly unnecessary hits have been weeded out and now we’re at a point of diminishing returns in which the rules are taking away from the action. 

Players like Mitchell and Iloka have made it pretty clear they are going to choose to risk a penalty if they feel they have no other choice. 

It’s time to listen to them. 

College football’s targeting rule does more harm than good because the way it is written opens the door to too many incidental plays being major penalties.

The NFL should avoid that.

RELATED: 5 things Bears coach John Fox said about the Bengals

Does that mean there are no high hits, intentional or not, that should result in the loss of playing time? No. 

But let’s slow down the process. 

An ejection is too serious to be handled in a matter of seconds. 

Obviously replay officials are not mind-readers, but knowledgeable football people (such as former players) can via film do a reasonably effective job telling the difference between plays that can be made without gratuitous head contact and those that can’t.

Give them the chance to do that — after the game. 

If they decide such contact was unavoidable because of the flight of the ball or movements by the receiver, then there should be no punishment.

If it wasn’t necessary or was avoidable, suspend a player for the next game.

That’s much better than trying to guess in the moment what happened live and then having just a minute or two to determine if such an important call was correct. 

›› Iloka backs Steelers’ Mitchell, defends JuJu hit on Burfict

Would this be a perfect system? No, but it could hardly be worse than the current college setup.

Will it make the game safer? Somewhat.

Will it make it less violent? Not really. But people working under the idea that’s possible or even desirable are out of touch.

Players and fans understand violence and danger are part of the game — and part of the appeal, too. 

Now that Mitchell and Iloka have said it, let’s stop pretending it’s not true and find workable solutions rather than continuing this cycle. 

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Dayton strength coach: Bittersweet leaving program after one year

Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 9:19 PM

Interview with new Dayton men's basketball strength coach Casey Cathrall

Casey Cathrall left the Dayton Flyers men’s basketball program after one season as the strength and conditioning coach for a dream job at the University of Miami. He has the same position with the Hurricanes men’s basketball team, and his first day was Monday.

» WATCH: Drone video of UD Arena renovations

Cathrall couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to Florida — he was a graduate assistant with the Hurricanes in 2013 when they won the ACC championship and earned his master’s degree in exercise physiology there in 2014 — in part because his wife Grace is from Vero Beach, Fla., two hours north of Miami, and her family still lives there.

“It’s just something we always dreamed about,” Cathrall said Monday night. “If they ever came calling, we couldn’t say no.”

» LOOKING BACK: Cathrall on his strength and conditioning philosophy

Dayton hired Cathrall in May 2017. He said it was bittersweet leaving the job.

“Dayton was awesome,” Cathrall said. “Obviously, the year didn’t go the way we would have hoped, but that really had no impact (on his decision). Grace had so many close friends (in Dayton). I really enjoyed working with the staff there. Coach (Anthony) Grant is a phenomenal guy. Everyone there was straight first class. Nothing but good things to say. It’s just bittersweet. I really feel we made some strides there in terms of trying to establish a culture and where the kids we’re at. I’m really excited for that program and where it’s headed.”

» GRANT WINS GOLD: Dayton coach helps lead USA U-18 team to title

Dayton posted Cathrall’s job last week and is also looking to hire a new assistant coach for the men’s basketball team after James Kane left for Iowa State.

In his final weeks on the job, Cathrall got to work with two of the newest Flyers: Michigan transfer Ibi Watson and Chattanooga transfer Rodney Chatman.

“Ibi got there the first week of summer school, somewhere around May 12 or 13th,” Cathrall said. “Rod was the week after or two weeks after. I spent a couple weeks with Ibi and at least two weeks with Rod. The takeaway from those two guys if the fans at Dayton are interested is they’re unbelievable people.”

Of Watson, Cathrall said, “Ibi, from day one, wants to win. He wants to be the best. Incredible competitiveness in him. He wants to do the extra miles, showing up early, staying after. Just very, very mature. What he brings to the program is more of what we need and more of where it’s going in terms of the culture and in terms of an unbelievable amount of discipline and habits and what it takes to be successful. He’s got a personality that he was able to mesh with the guys right away. I think the chemistry will show when he’s finally able to get out there on the floor.

Speaking of Chatman, Cathrall said, “Rod’s a softer-spoken guy. You can tell he’s a guy that’s played college basketball before. I think he’s adjusting to the physicality we have at Dayton, but in terms of his skill set, his basketball IQ, his unselfishness and his demeanor and habits, I just think he’s another home-run addition of what coach Grant and the staff are building.”

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Urban Meyer offers perspective on Ohio State QBs, new NCAA rules

Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 4:12 PM

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31:  Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on against the Clemson Tigers during the 2016 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on against the Clemson Tigers during the 2016 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 31, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)(Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer spoke about quarterback and a couple of changes to NCAA rules Friday night in Columbus. 

The Buckeyes mentor confirmed in the clearest language yet Dwayne Haskins will be his starting quarterback when preseason camp commences in late summer. 

“Dwayne is the starter and Tate (Martell) is in full competition mode,” Meyer told reporters at the annual Ohio State football job fair. “Matt Baldwin is our three and he’s doing very well now.” 

Haskins, a sophomore from Maryland, became the assumed starter when Joe Burrow transferred to LSU last month

Meyer told the Pro Football Hall of Fame luncheon crowd in Canton in mid-May Haskins would get “the first opportunity to be the starter,” and his latest comments further confirmed that intention. 

RELATED: Urban Meyer talks about Ohio State QBs past, present and (potentially) future

In Columbus, Meyer also said he has maintained contact with Burrow, who graduated in May and is eligible for the Tigers right away. 

“Joe did a lot for us, and we did a lot for Joe, so it was a very amicable relationship,” Meyer said. 

The appearance was also the first for Meyer since the NCAA announced a pair of changes to player eligibility last week. 

Beginning this fall, players will be able to play up to four games without losing the ability to take a redshirt season

“It’s a good rule, and I’m glad they did that,” Meyer said. “It’s good for most importantly the student-athlete.” 

Previously participating in one play meant a year of eligibility was used — unless that player later became injured and certain other specifications were met. 

That is no longer the case. 

“I think it’s just going to be easier (for coaches). Usually you play a guy early and then if they get hurt, you redshirt them,” Meyer said. “Now there is going to be, do you hold onto them until the stretch run when it gets really hard and you need them? Because usually when you get into the end of the season you’re dealing with injuries.” 

Meyer also said the new rule preventing coaches from blocking transfers is good — as long as players still have to sit out a year before being eligible. 

“I’m not a big fan of all the transfers,” Meyer said. “I think that’s an easy way out, but I get it. I’m a big fan graduate transfers. When they fulfill their obligation, go, but I also understand the other part.” 

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All-Star voting update: Gennett still third among NL second basemen

Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 1:47 PM

The Reds Scooter Gennett drives in a run with a double against the Pirates on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Contributing Writer
The Reds Scooter Gennett drives in a run with a double against the Pirates on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff(Contributing Writer)

Scooter Gennett, of the Cincinnati Reds, remains ranked third among second basemen in voting for the National League All-Star team.

Gennett has received 743,979 votes, the league announced Monday in its second release of the voting results. He trails the Braves’ Ozzie Albies (915,736) and the Cubs’ Javier Baez (767,417). All three have a wide lead over the fourth-ranked second baseman: the Giants’ Joe Panik (194,634).

»RELATED: Gennett, Suarez, Votto among all-star candidates

Joey Votto also remains fifth in voting among first basemen (189,364), well behind the league’s overall leader in votes, the Braves’ Freddie Freeman (1,433,140).

Eugenio Suarez, who ranked fourth last week, remains fourth this week among third basemen with 228,806 votes. He leads NL third basemen in RBIs (52) and ranks second in the league among all players. The Rockies’ Nolan Arenado (1,124,563) has a wide lead among third basemen.

Voting began June 1 and continues until 11:59 p.m. July 5. The All-Star Game will be played July 17 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

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Is Joey Votto a Hall of Famer? What the stats say through 1,500 games

Published: Monday, June 18, 2018 @ 9:19 AM

Who is Joey Votto: Ten facts about Reds first baseman

Joey Votto played in his 1,500th career game for the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in an 8-6 victory at PNC Park against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Before the game, the Reds shared the numbers on how Votto compares to Hall of Fame first basemen from the last 50 years, including Jim Thome, who will be inducted this summer.

» DRAGONS: Dayton ends first half with loss

Here’s how Votto, at age 34, in his 12th season, stacks up against 12 of the greats through the first 1,500 games of their careers. In short, he compares well — especially in on-base percentage and walks, as you might expect.

Batting average: Rod Carew (.335); Frank Thomas (.321); Johnny Mize (.320); Joey Votto (.313); Jeff Bagwell (.305); Orlando Cepeda (.305); Eddie Murray (.299); George Kelly (.297); Jim Thome (.285); Tony Perez (.284); Ernie Banks (.283); Willie McCovey (.282); Harmon Killebrew (.262);

On-base percentage: Thomas (.441); Votto (.428); Bagwell (.418); Thome (.411); Mize (.406); Carew (.392); McCovey (.385); Killebrew (.375); Murray (.375); Cepeda (.355); Perez (.347); Banks (.344); Kelly (.343); 

Slugging percentage: Mize (.580); Thomas (.580); Thome (.566); McCovey (.555); Bagwell (.553); Banks (.536); Votto (.536); Killebrew (.532); Cepeda (.517); Murray (.505); Perez (.484); Kelly (.455); Carew (.450);

Home runs: Killebrew (392); Thome (368); Ernie Banks (353); McCovey (347); Thomas (339); Bagwell (316); Mize (315); Cepeda (279); Murray (275); Votto (263); Perez (246); Kelly (137); Rod Carew (71).

Hits: Rod Carew (1,924); Mize (1,776); Thomas (1,721); Cepeda (1,714); Murray (1,680); Votto (1,662); Bagwell (1,657); Kelly (1,650); Banks (1,618); Perez (1,550); Thome (1,451); McCovey (1,375); Killebrew (1,354); 

Walks: Thomas (1,172); Bagwell (1,012); Votto (1,046); Killebrew (919); McCovey (788); Mize (757); Murray (709); Carew (542); Perez (532); Banks (521); Cepeda (388); Kelly (358); Thome (108).

2018 Cincinnati Reds: 10 things to know(David Jablonski - Staff Writer)

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