Video: The obligatory “skull-rattling hit that almost broke Willis McGahee’s neck” clip

posted at 11:55 am on January 19, 2009 by Allahpundit

One of the most vicious collisions you’ll ever see, posted here because I know most of you watched the game and are wondering how he’s doing. Miraculously, despite “significant” neck pain, he’s “neurogically intact” with movement in all his limbs. No diagnosis yet but presumably it’s whiplash and/or a concussion.

So brutal was this that, after watching the replay, I was hoping he was “merely” paralyzed and not actually dead on the field. Click the image to watch.


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jake-the-goose on January 19, 2009 at 2:20 PM

ASSume. (linebacker in 13 AAAAA Texas HS football)

philwynk made a good comment about defensive backs going for the feet of the big backs, MeGehee clocks in at 230. But if he was just trying to trip up the bigger man, why come in at head level, not the legs?

Plus I never understand not using the arms.

They come in with the devastating hit, but what happens when the hit is glancing or just not so devastating? The runner is not even slowed down. You wrap up. You can deliver the blow, but then wrap up. If you cannot make the tackel at least you can hang on until help arrives.

tommylotto on January 19, 2009 at 2:53 PM

I’m kind of amazed that Willis McGahee is even playing at all after his knee injury in college. If he can overcome that, I’m sure he will overcome this.

SoulGlo on January 19, 2009 at 3:06 PM

I’m kind of amazed that Willis McGahee is even playing at all after his knee injury in college. If he can overcome that, I’m sure he will overcome this.

SoulGlo on January 19, 2009 at 3:06 PM

I just happened by, and I echo this remark. After the Joe Theisman broken leg, McGahee’s knee injury in a BCS Championship Game against Ohio State several years ago was the most gruesome-looking injury I’ve seen on a televised football game. I have a friend who’s an orthopaedic surgeon who e-mailed me that night that he couldn’t see McGahee ever playing again.

It’s unbelievable he ever recovered from that knee injury.

BuckeyeSam on January 19, 2009 at 3:14 PM

philwynk made a good comment about defensive backs going for the feet of the big backs, MeGehee clocks in at 230. But if he was just trying to trip up the bigger man, why come in at head level, not the legs?

tommylotto on January 19, 2009 at 2:53 PM

That’s what I was wondering, but I think I get it now.

If you look at the video between :30 and :39, you can see Clark moving in from his position to cover McGahee. Flocco threw at :34; the ball reached McGahee at :36; Clark hit McGahee at :38. Clark is not permitted to hit the back if he does not have the ball, so he’s still working coverage until the ball gets caught. He had less than 4 seconds to react to the ball and hit the receiver, and about 2 seconds to react to the reception and position himself for the hit. He probably got as low as he could in that length of time. It was probably a reflex on his part.

Apparently the Baltimore coaching staff regards this incident as a legitimate hit, and I’m with them. I’m very glad both Clark and McGahee are going to be fine. It’s a dangerous game.

philwynk on January 19, 2009 at 3:17 PM

I was hoping he was “merely” paralyzed and not actually dead on the field.

When I saw that, I was thinking exactly the same thing. His arms were drawn up in what looked like a death spasm. That was a horrifying thing to watch.

Tennman on January 19, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Yes, dirty hit! The Steelers do a lot of helmut first strikes and get a pass. This did cost the Ravins the game as they had the momentum until this.
wepeople on January 19, 2009 at 1:39 PM

I believe you are incorrectly recalling the sequence of events.

The Ravens were trying to come back from a 9 pt. deficit at that moment with about 4:50 left in the game IIRC. They had gone down by 9 when Troy Polamalu returned the interception for a TD on the possession previous to the hit and fumble (which was legal BTW).

MoCoM on January 19, 2009 at 3:25 PM

“i think i broke his freakin neck,,,”

UNREPENTANT CONSERVATIVE CAPITOLIST on January 19, 2009 at 3:35 PM

Game was more or less over when it happened. Frankly I don’t see the hit as dirty, just a nasty physics example. This was nowhere near as dirty as the Steelers purposely snapping Carson Palmer’s leg in the playoffs because they knew they couldn’t beat the Bengals that year.
LevStrauss on January 19, 2009 at 12:55 PM

The video showed Kimo Von Oelhoffen was blocked and fell off-balance into Palmer. Von Oelhoffen was defended by Bengals players (with who he had played for 5 years) following that game, stating that they believed it not to be a cheap shot.

MoCoM on January 19, 2009 at 3:38 PM

This didn’t even look so much like a huge hit to me, that is until the slo-mo replay. You just never know the effect any contact will have on the players.

Grafted on January 19, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Dick Butkus used to say that on every hit he tried to hit hard enough to knock the helmet off the players head.
The result is that he had a recurring nightmare that haunted him…he would wake up in the middle of the night sweating…he dreamed that he knocked the helmet off, and when he went to retrieve it, it had the head still inside it.
Linebackers, and such, are the last defense, they have to stop the player every time.

right2bright on January 19, 2009 at 3:46 PM

I’ve watched lots of football and seen quite a few tough, clean hits, especially on special teams when kick returners and tacklers are running full-speed in opposite directions. This one did look like a dirty hit to me–Clark probably could have lowered his shoulder and hit McGahee in the midsection, which would have knocked McGahee over without endangering his neck or head. The NFL should probably set up personal-foul penalties for deliberate head-to-head tackles, as they have for twisting the facemask.

A penalty on this hit would have nullified a fumble, and the scramble for the ball could have resulted in players landing on the injured McGahee. Football is a rough sport, and some players WILL be injured, but their heads and necks should be protected.

You’ve got to congratulate Troy Polamalu for that interception return–that was poetry in motion!

Steve Z on January 19, 2009 at 3:56 PM

Sounds like McGahee has been sent home from the hospital.
http://www.inquisitr.com/15701/ravens-running-back-willis-mcgahee-injury-latest-should-be-ok/

God has answered our prayers. Agreed with earlier posts and was praying he wasn’t dead or paralyzed.

Christian Conservative on January 19, 2009 at 4:02 PM

Whatever. Find me one single NASCAR, NHRA, Indy or F1 fan that says they watch it for the crashes. Yeah, the crashes are exciting sometimes, boring mostly (they take forever to clean up), and occasionally terrifying, but: We watch it because we like racing.

SouthernDem on January 19, 2009 at 2:52 PM

As a former race car driver and having driven an open wheeled/open cockpit Formula Mazda and an SCCA Spec Racer Ford (a closed wheel/open cockpit formula car) I don’t completely agree with Southern. As much as divers don’t like to aadmit it spectators DO want to see crashes (or as I call it…”CAR-NAGE”) as they’re exciting to see, however while I think spectators DO want to see crashes I’m certain they don’t want to see anyone get hurt in them.

As Ernest Hemmingway once said, “there are only three true sports, auto racing, mountain climbing, and bull fighting, all the rest are merely games…”

Liberty or Death on January 19, 2009 at 4:14 PM

F=mv^2

Much like a Spanish Inquisition, no one expects how it’s the velocity that get’s ya every time.

HarneyPeak on January 19, 2009 at 4:27 PM

Clark dropped his shoulder to make the hit and his head to turtle up. Not the best way to avoid spinal injury, but a natural reaction that even the pros cannot always overcome.

As for those who are boo-hooin the violence in the game. It is a sport of collisions and dominance of will. You pop a guy hard enough, often enough, and his body will not allow him to make that extra reach for the ball, or drive the contact step harder than his approach step. It says to the brain “heck with you 8# chunk of grey matter we are not going to spread out like that cause it hurts”.

Nathan_OH on January 19, 2009 at 4:39 PM

I prayed for him when he went down, and I’m glad he is going to be okay. I have a soft spot for the guys from my Alma Mater.

badger on January 19, 2009 at 4:41 PM

It’s inspiring to see all the people praying on the field.

Now juxtapose this against:

“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.”

- The Cat

MirCat on January 19, 2009 at 4:56 PM

As a former race car driver and having driven an open wheeled/open cockpit Formula Mazda and an SCCA Spec Racer Ford (a closed wheel/open cockpit formula car) I don’t completely agree with Southern. As much as divers don’t like to aadmit it spectators DO want to see crashes (or as I call it…”CAR-NAGE”) as they’re exciting to see, however while I think spectators DO want to see crashes I’m certain they don’t want to see anyone get hurt in them.

As Ernest Hemmingway once said, “there are only three true sports, auto racing, mountain climbing, and bull fighting, all the rest are merely games…”

Liberty or Death on January 19, 2009 at 4:14 PM

Exactly. My point was that we are entertained by violence and risky behavior. We pay to watch it. Fans enjoy watching the kind of collision seen on the video, and at the same time wish the participants no permanent harm. However, the closer they can creep to that harm by even more risky behavior, yet avoid it, the better we like it. No one likes to see an old boxer suffering from concussion induced dementia, yet it is an unavoidable outcome for many in the sport. We support it with our dollars. The new craze for ultra-fighting(or whatever it is called) without protection is fairly indicative of my point. If some wish to deny that is the attraction, fine with me.

a capella on January 19, 2009 at 6:23 PM

Clark didn’t lead with his head. Watching the video, its clear he had turned his right shoulder inward to hit with it….and it just didn’t work out.

tgharris on January 19, 2009 at 6:28 PM

Whether you think it was dirty or not, it was a penalty. Most facemask penalties are unintentional. But it isn’t the intent that matters. It is the result. And helmet-to-helmet hits are NOT legal.

TechieNotTrekkie on January 19, 2009 at 6:58 PM

Stop already! It was a clean hit. The helmet to helmet contact was incidental and as much the fault of McGahee as Clark. Both of them lowered their shoulders to brace for and “cause” a hard impact. It just so happens that when they did so, they whacked their heads together too. Sheesh. It’s right there in the video.. Stop propagandizing.

RobertCSampson on January 19, 2009 at 7:13 PM

What made this amusing was that I was waiting for McGahee to get “injured” for the entire game. He was on my fantasy team all year, and seemed to leave with an “injury” anytime someone in the crowd sneezed. Drove me CRAZY.

This one looks legit though. I hope he gets well..!

Ludwig on January 19, 2009 at 9:48 PM

TechieNotTrekkie on January 19, 2009 at 8:20 PM

Good post.

The refs need to start enforcing this rule. They need to flag the defensive backs every time they lower their head and initiate contact with the top of their helmet. As long as there is this erroneous impression that this is just a good hit and flags don’t fly, the defensive backs will continue to use and be taught this poor technique.

Keep your head up and wrap up with your arms!

tommylotto on January 19, 2009 at 9:58 PM

Joe Theisman is the hit to end all hits in football. This is just a normal hit, with bad results.

lorien1973 on January 19, 2009 at 12:31 PM

I disagree. The Theisman hit wasn’t brutal in the sense of the hit itself but in the freakiness of the injury. I do agree with your earlier statement noting how McGahee gets hurt in big games. Much like this hit he was blown up in the BCS Championship Game by Will Allen of Ohio State. The difference there was Allen didn’t go high. Both were legal hits but McGahee could’ve died with the location of this one. Thank God the helmets aren’t leather anymore or both of these men would be being fitted for a pine box.

But, I think too many people focus on the 300 pound lineman and are missing where the really big hits take place. They come at the second and third level by 225 pound safeties and 250 pound linebackers hitting 235 pound running backs and 200 pound receivers at full speed. The collisions the linemen take aren’t as severe individually as those like this one in the secondary but obviously have a lasting effect on those lineman i.e. Mike Webster.

The game can be brutal and certainly isn’t for the weak.

rmel80 on January 20, 2009 at 1:45 AM

The video showed Kimo Von Oelhoffen was blocked and fell off-balance into Palmer. Von Oelhoffen was defended by Bengals players (with who he had played for 5 years) following that game, stating that they believed it not to be a cheap shot.

MoCoM on January 19, 2009 at 3:38 PM

There is plenty to dispute there. I’ve seen that video many times and I saw Kimo diving at Palmer’s left leg. Was he falling down? Yes. But did he lurch his body at Palmer’s front leg? Yes. With Palmer out of the game the Bengals didn’t stand a chance. Kimo having played for the Bengals is irrelavent. 5 years might as well have been 5 minutes. He certainly didn’t make an impact on the Bengals while he was with them until he dove into Palmer.

rmel80 on January 20, 2009 at 1:56 AM

When I saw that, the entire living room got dead silent (though, I got ticked off to no end hearing some Steelers fans more focused on cheering that the Steelers got the fumble after Clark, accidental or not, had a Helmet to helmet contact knocking McGahee most likely unconcious for a moment.

I agree with the above statement, Steelers should’ve been penalized, but, since it looked accidental. no removals from the game.

McGahee, praying for a fast recovery for you, good to hear that it looks like no permanent injury at this point.

Now…. on a different note… with no other options left…. To All RAVENS AND NON-STEELERS FANS, we have but one hope left….

KURT WARNER!!!!!! You give all that glory to God, Kurt, just win the freakin Super Bowl!!! GO ARIZONA!!!

Razgriez on January 20, 2009 at 2:00 AM

That’s why they play the games

Dollayo on January 20, 2009 at 3:52 AM

Instead of the NFL getting Clark under control before he kills or paralyzes somebody they enable him by condoning his cheap-shot head-hunting. So much for the NFL’s concern for player safety.

When the tragedy happens I hope Goodell will be able to look the player’s family in the eyes and explain his despicable non-action.

TheBigOldDog on January 20, 2009 at 9:09 AM

I think many of you fail to realize that this isn’t Clark’s first head-hunting trip this season:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjX98bUz2wM

This cheap-shot head hunter better be brought under control before it’s too late. The NFL won’t be able to calim they didn’t see it coming.

TheBigOldDog on January 20, 2009 at 9:15 AM

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