Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shamarko Thomas Must Use His Head Regarding "Blow Up" Hits

Tom Robinson of The Virginian-Pilot has been covering Shamarko Thomas since high school. He has seen his maturation into a player with a "prodigious capacity for work and desire to learn and excel." Traits that he saw Thomas parlay into becoming the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2013 fourth-round NFL Draft pick.

But he says that Thomas didn't always listen. Even "Thomas concedes that he wasn’t focused." He admits that he "was troubled that his mother and father had divorced. The emotional pain stung more because he was the oldest of six children." Then Thomas’ life got even worse when his parents died within a year of one another. He was angry, frustrated and confused. He was a very troubled and obstinate youth.

He forged a friendship with his high school coach, Chris Scott, changing his life. He calls Scott his biggest supporter. His early life and that relationship is described in this Virginian-Pilot article. -

As Robinson wrote in his blog Wednesday, Thomas showed his own support when he dropped by to help out at coach Scott’s "sweltering youth camp." It was there that he asked Thomas "if in OTAs so far his coaches have discussed with him how he hits."

In case you don't know by now, Thomas flies all over the field, throws his body around with reckless abandon and HITS. He has the nose for the ball and the instincts that will help him fit snugly under the wings of two current Steelers safeties. -

But as Neil McCauley famously said in Heat: "There is a flip side to that coin."

To continue with what Robinson wrote, he said he'd asked 'whether the coaches cautioned him to change or to be wary' considering his style. He said that Thomas "smiled and admitted it’s come up, and that the Steelers stress proper form -- i.e. wrapping up, leading with the shoulder and not the head -- rather than going for a 'blow up' hit." -

Thomas' response? “I’m gonna get some fines, I’m not gonna lie," he said. "That’s just how I play. It’s football.”

That is both good and bad. Good in that the Steelers coaching staff is doing their due diligence in teaching the proper technique. Good also in that there are few safeties in the league with better form at the point of attack than Ryan Clark, and few with better overall talent than Troy Polamalu. They are known for their big hits too, so, again, Thomas will fit right in.

The other side of the coin is that these are two safeties who are also known for their big hits. i.e. One's biggest strength can be his biggest weakness. Clark had two concussions last season alone, and Polamalu has had...well, a lot.

While we're not saying that either of them will end up like Reggie Ray from Not Another Teen Movie, we're simply stating that this kinder and gentler, 1,000 points of light NFL is doing all it can to protect *cough* its players. And however inconsistent their approach to it may be, their intentions do have merit.

A 1994 study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health stated that retired football players, with at least five seasons in the NFL, are three to four times more likely to die from diseases of the brain compared with the general public. -

Now, we don't know whether or not Thomas was even serious about getting fined. But he does need to be made aware against throwing things like that out there in the future considering the perception of the Steelers defense - NFL referees whistles come quickly enough as it is.

That said, we still don't want to see Thomas adversely change his style or have his growth stifled. Even though he may be fine with being fined, he still needs to use his head instead of using his head.


TIDBITS: Steelers among eight NFL teams to participate in pilot program that would put player medical records online. -