We need to talk about Travis Hunter’s injury on the cheapshot by Henry Blackburn in the Colorado/Colorado State game.
If you didn’t see it, Blackburn came over from his safety position and put his shoulder into Hunter’s ribs well after a sideline pass had already sailed over Hunter’s head.
Blackburn was trying to knock Hunter out of the game, and it worked. After being pulled from the game and sent to the hospital for evaluation, we now know that Travis Hunter is knocked out of several games.
And until he gets back, Henry Blackburn should be suspended too. But he won’t be. Because you can intentionally try to injure anyone you want in college football, so long as you don’t lower your head when you do it.
Lower your head and whiff on a tackle like Weber State’s Naseme Colvin did against Utah last weekend? Kicked out of the game.
Lower your shoulder into the ribs of the best player on the field at full speed well after the play has ended? Stay in the game, but the ball gets moved 45 feet ahead.
Now, Henry Blackburn isn’t going to go unpunished. This is a young man FROM Boulder Colorado. Walking around in his hometown is gonna be a little less comfortable now that people like LeBron James are tweeting about his dirty hit. However, he will be able to play the first half next week against Middle Tennessee State, while his teammate Mohamed Kamara will have to sit out because he got flagged for targeting on his hit of Sheduer Sanders.
But this is less about Henry Blackburn, and more about how it exposes the NCAA’s ridiculous refusal to address the fact that a massive portion of targeting calls involve accidental contact and end up being judgment calls from referees watching who are watching slow motion replays.
There needs to be a differentiation between incidental, non-malicious contact on the field that the NCAA still wants to discourage, and the intentional type of plays that can ruin careers, and endanger someone’s physical wellbeing.
Nobody understands the need to keep players as safe as possible in an intensely physical game more than I do. I had to take these hits. But I’m a former offensive player out here telling you that trying to take the football out of football by not differentiating between things that happen when a defender is trying to make a play, like when Mississippi State’s Shawn Preston Jr. got tossed for tackling a non-sliding Jayden Daniels in their game against LSU.
At most that should have been a penalty for leading with the helmet. I could live with that, but for the rules as they’re written to create the reality that it’s less egregious for a safety to use his shoulder as a weapon on a defenseless receiver after the play ends?
That’s a joke.
We can try and rid the game of lowered crowns and launching- that’s a noble pursuit. Stuff like what the Denver Broncos Kareem Jackson did to Washington Commanders TE Logan Thomas on Sunday needs to involve punishments that span the length of the injuries they might cause. I feel the same way about Henry Blackburn.
But if the illegal contact seems unintentional, throw the flag and make it a teachable moment instead of an overly punitive action that shifts the balance of competition in the game.
Let that sink in.