Ditka, Paterno offer solutions for hits

Two old-school football coaches have one solution to possibly eliminate helmet-to-helmet hits in the NFL … make it old school again. As in eliminate the facemasks. Or even helmets.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review it would prevent players from leading with their heads while blocking and tackling.

“I have been saying (it) for 15 years,” Paterno said. “Then, you would get back to shoulder blocking and shoulder tackling, and you wouldn’t have all those heroes out there. Guys (would) have to worry about broken noses, knocked-out teeth, which we would like to prevent, but you don’t get anything for nothing.

“We used to have one single bar; now we have a weapon.”

Former Bears coach and Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka offered up a similar opinion Monday during an interview on ESPN Radio while talking about helmet-less football.

“I don’t think people would strike with the head as much,” Ditka said, per the Tribune-Review. “You would learn to strike with the shoulder pads if you didn’t have a helmet on your head.”

As radical as the ideas are, many believe the best — and perhaps only — way to change the way players lead with the helmet while blocking or tackling is to fundamentally change the way football is taught. Jim Mora offered up a similar take during a segment on legal and illegal hits Tuesday, noting one of the all-time greatest hitters — Ronnie Lott — was a master at tackling with his chest.

— Frank Tadych

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