Tampa Bay Bucs Dashon Goldson needs to prove his leadership

Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson considers himself a leader.

Back in September, Goldson announced on Twitter that his Bucs teammates had selected him as a team captain for 2013. This was a high honor for Goldson who seemed to be gushing with delight in run-on tweets: “I always looked at myself as a leader…a true leader…I’m new to this team and it speaks volumes on the amount of respect the team has…for me as a player, teammate, and as a man.”

Flash forward a few weeks.goldson

The NFL announced a one-game suspension for Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson on Monday. The suspension came after a helmet-to-helmet hit on Darren Sproles in Sunday’s game against the Saints in Week 2. The Bucs were penalized during the game for Goldson’s hit, and the play earned him a one-game suspension by the NFL’s powers that be.

Merton Hanks, NFL VP of Football Operations, wrote to Goldson:

You had an unobstructed path to your opponent…It is clear that you lowered your head and unnecessarily rammed the left side of your helmet into the left side of your opponent’s head. You delivered a forceful blow with your helmet and made no attempt whatsoever to wrap up your opponent or make a conventional tackle on the play. This illegal contact clearly could have been avoided.

Hanks maintains that Goldson deliberately delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit. And, really, the suspension was issued not as a result of the single hit but rather because Goldson has a history of unnecessary roughness. Goldson has racked up fifteen personal fouls since 2010, making him one of foulest players in the NFL. (Although other players (*ahem* Ndamukog Suh) certainly come up more frequently when discussing ‘dirty players.’

Goldson appealed the suspension, and the appeal process worked rapidly. Goldson’s appeal was partially successful. His punishment was reduced to $100,000 and no suspension (about $160,000 less than he would have lost had he lost his paycheck for a week).

Saints QB Drew Brees responded harshly to Goldson’s successful appeal. Brees acknowledged that it is difficult for defensive players, but he said Goldson “certainly has no regards for rules in the middle” and “he’s going after guys’ heads.”

Sproles, Goldson’s Week 2 target, said “[Goldson] tried to hurt me on the play, but he didn’t.”

Goldson himself says he has never been a dirty player, and he intends to follow the rules, saying:

I know there’s going to be a lot of eyes on me from now on…I mean, that’s okay. I’ve just got to be smart. I’m not trying to hurt our team, I’m definitely not trying to hurt myself or another player.

Basically, he says he will be more careful to play by the rules now because he knows he will be facing extra scrutiny (which would certainly lead to more fines and maybe, possible even a suspension). Clean, legal hits. Now he knows. Uh, really? I guess his fifteen personal fouls were not enough for him to figure out that, yeah, you’re doing it wrong. Oh, and the $30,000 fine you got for a Week 1 hit on Jets TE Jeff Cumberland wasn’t notice enough either.

Goldson also tweeted on Thursday: “Thank you everyone for ur support in this “suspension” case. To the fans u all been great to me and I now see who has my back and who doesn’t @drewbrees lol.” He uses quotations marks around suspension like I do around “bountygate.” Like it’s not a real thing. It’s something conjured up by the NFL based on little evidence.

That’s what bugs me about this Goldson suspension and appeal. As a Saints fan, I’m left feeling unsettled as to the NFL’s stance on safety. After all, we just suffered through a year without our head coach, several without an assistant coach and GM, and the near-suspension two active players for [alleged] participation and complacency in a “bounty program.” I get the dark humor that this case involves a hard hit on a Saints player, but wasn’t a major part of “bountygate” to demonstrate that the NFL was taking a hard line on protecting players?

I don’t think Goldson is trying to collect bounties on players, but he’s delivering illegal big hits. Immediately after the game, Goldson showed no signs that he thought anything was wrong.

He told reporters after Sunday’s game against the Saints:

We’re not worried about those penalties, man, we’re really not…That’s football. You can’t worry about penalties. We learn how to tackle when we’re young. We’ve been doing this for a long time. The refs are going to make the call. You can’t worry about something like that.

Players learn to tackle when they are young, and Goldson sounds unwilling to change his technique. Penalties be damned!

I find NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s response to the appeal decision worthless:

It’s not that there wasn’t a violation of the rule, and it’s not that there were not consequences for violating the rule. So that, in and of itself, is a shift, and a positive shift that the culture is changing. But the culture doesn’t change overnight, and we will probably always have violations of rules.

What I hear: Really, really, guys…the NFL is a-changin’. We can’t suspend a guy who has repetitively broken rules about player safety for a single game, but we can all recognize that he did something wrong. It’s not like he wasn’t punished at all. Blah blah blah.

What does it say when the leaders of the game won’t follow the safety rules? Goldson is a team captain–a leader chosen by his peers. He appears to have little respect for the safety rules of the game, and the league is hindered from doing much of anything about it.

Hopefully, Goldson will now self-regulate and show some leadership regarding player safety. Show us big hits without the penalties. And maaaaaybeeee the NFL will be able to do something if he doesn’t. LOL.

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