- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Is a large-scale over-reaction every time an NFL player or coach uses the word kill in discussing intentions in a violent game really the method we want America to take to address player safety?
Here’s a newsflash: Word choice isn’t going to fix anything here.
Per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Titans safety Bernard Pollard has this sign taped up in his locker:
Goal — Super Bowl
Mission — Kill!!!
Initial reaction on a national scale to Wyatt’s piece is way out of whack and will assuredly grow. If Pollard makes an illegal hit that intentionally hurts an opponent, maybe we look back on the sign with some concern.
Until he does, what he is doing is talking.
And talking doesn’t kill, at least not unless a despot is doing the talking.
More from Pollard to Wyatt:
“Our goal is the Super Bowl, and our mission is to kill. And if someone doesn’t like it, then who cares? I really couldn’t care less. It is not our responsibility to make anyone else happy, to please you, to care about you.
“Our responsibility is to protect LP Field and our responsibility is to steal wins on the road. And our responsibility is to (beat you up) as a defense, and that’s what we’re going to do on every single play. You have to have that mentality, because nobody cares about the Tennessee Titans. Nobody. So you have to take the respect. That’s what we have to do. … Yeah, this team can get to the Super Bowl.”
Are we really going to read that literally? Do we think Pollard wants the Titans leaving corpses behind?
I do not.
Is the talk somewhat silly and over the top? Sure it is. Football players say silly, over-the-top things. Perhaps he should be a bit more careful considering Gregg Williams, center of the bounty scandal, is on the Titans' staff. Still, there is a giant space between saying the word kill and allegedly setting up a play for injury program.
Too often I find myself parsing what players say, talking about what would qualify as a better answer. I often urge radio callers to say what they mean and mean what they say. But I have not eliminated the possibility of hyperbole and figures of speech from my life, and I don't believe you should either.
I understand there is a culture change going on with regard to violence -- particularly violence of the unnecessary variety -- in the NFL. Of course I’m on board with that and applaud it.
But I hate that it turns us into word police who will now try to force Pollard to retreat from or apologize for something I don’t believe requires an apology.
He said doesn’t care if he and the Titans anger some people around the league.
I do. Because what he said shouldn’t prompt that kind of hyper-sensitive, politically correct reaction.
UPDATE, Wednesday night: Wyatt spoke to Pollard after the big reaction to his initial comments. To his credit, Pollard owned what he said. He struck themes similar to mine about the interpretation of the word "kill."
“I don’t care what they have to say. If they feel like we’re going to carry guns and knives and try and stab people and try and kill them, shame on you. You are an idiot,’’ Pollard said. “For us, when we say kill, we want to go out there and knock the (heck) out of people, we want to hit you. And for me, we’re going to help you up because I’m going to knock you back down. I have been at plenty of pee-wee football games where I have seen my son, my daughter, and you hear parents, you hear women, white, black, Hispanic, Chinese, Japanese, telling their sons, “Kill them! Telling their daughters, Kill them!”
“Do I believe they mean kill them? Literally kill them? No. So if you have never played this game before and you want to take that and run with it, go ahead. Shame on you. You’re a fool. But for us, that is just the mentality you have to have and that’s not going to change.”