If you follow the NFL, you probably know by now that Oakland?s Vontaze Burfict has been given a season-long suspension for his head-to-head hit on Indianapolis?s Jack Doyle. The collision is truly an ugly one and, whether viewed at real-time or high speed, the punishment seems to be worthy of the crime.
Burfict clearly leads with his helmet, which, in my opinion, should warrant some kind of penalty whether the hit is head-to-head or head-to-body. The grey-area with a hit and suspension like Burfict?s, though, is intent. Did Burfict mean to hit Doyle?s head? We can?t know exactly what he was thinking, but we can analyze the video to see if Burfict had enough time to react to Doyle?s movement and get out of the way.
Now, to set the stage, Burfict, who weighs 225 pounds, covers the final 17 feet of his pursuit in 20 frames. And because this video is recorded at 30 frames per second, that means he was traveling at a little over 17 MPH. Doyle, who is basically stationary when he makes the grab, begins moving his head downfield at about 4 MPH. And when Doyle begins this movement, Burfict is still about 9 feet away (forgive the pixilation). To cover that distance, it takes him 10 frames, which equates to about 0.33 seconds.
Now, it takes the average human about 0.25 seconds to react to visual stimuli. Burfict, being an elite athlete, may or may not be able to react even faster than that. Either way, 0.25 seconds after Doyle begins shifting his body downfield ? when Burfict?s brain should have already processed this movement ? the linebacker is about 4 feet away and still has at least 0.08 seconds before he connects with the tight end.
So is 0.08 seconds enough time for Burfict to change his trajectory and get his head out of the way? Well, athletes can do quite a bit in 0.08 seconds. Baseball batters, for instance, take only 0.05 seconds to decide to swing at a pitch. And it?s this final bit of time that shows just how dirty this play was. After determining he does, in fact, have enough time to shift his body, we can see that he does just that ?the very next frame is when Burfict drops his head.
Does Doyle?s movement complicate things a bit? Of course. But the fact is that Burfict had enough time to react to that movement and get out of the way. Instead, Burfict reacts to Doyle?s movement and decides to go in for the kill. With Burfict out of the league, the NFL is a safer place.
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Tim Dix is a writer based in Los Angeles, where he mostly produces television involving sports or science or both.