The necessary focus on protecting player health and safety has taken some of the fun out of trash talk.
For example, as the Browns prepare to face the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the comments from defensive end Myles Garrett seem downright boring.
“Hell, I have to send him off, right?” Garrett said Friday regarding the likelihood that it will be Big Ben’s last visit to Cleveland.
It’s a far cry from the chatter that preceded Roethlisberger’s first visit to Cleveland, 17 years ago.
“Yeah, we’re going across his head, regardless of cost,” defensive lineman Gerard Warren said. “That’s what we get paychecks for: We pay the cost. . . . One rule they used to tell me — kill the head and the body’s dead.”
Warren said that “it’ll be well worth it” if he draws a fine. “You go across somebody’s head a time or two, and they’ll be looking for you.”
Someone told Warren that his remarks sounded malicious.
“That’s my personal way of rattling him,” Warren replied. “This game is all about being malicious and violent.”
Warren’s comments had the NFL watching him closely. During that game, nothing untoward happened.
Two years ago, of course, something untoward did indeed occur. Garrett went after Roethlisberger’s replacement, attacking Mason Rudolph with his own helmet. The league suspended Garrett for the balance of the year, after the Week 10 incident.
In 1976, Browns defensive lineman Joe “Turkey” Jones planted Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw on his helmet, giving the quarterback a spinal contusion that caused him to miss multiple games and left him with no feeling in his extremities for multiple days. The league fined Jones $3,000, but it didn’t suspend him.
The game has changed in many ways over the years, and that’s very good. If a player did now what Jones did to Bradshaw, he would have been gone for a lot longer than Garrett was for whacking Rudolph over the head with the thing that otherwise protects it.
That doesn’t mean Roethlisberger is immune from being hit. Or from being hit hard, if it happens in a clean, legal way.