As if we needed another reminder of the horribly short life expectancy for NFL alumni, former Oakland DB Jack Tatum passed away today after suffering a heart attack. Tatum’s death comes a little more than 3 years after the death of the man he crippled, Patriots WR Darryl Stingley. In the view of CBS Sports blogger Pete Prisco, Tatum deserves recognition for more than merely ending Stingley’s career during a preseason game.
Tatum was the bad ass who became the poster child for over-the-top violence in the NFL. There were stories that the NFL was too violent, that Stingley’s plight might be the undoing of the league’s growing popularity.
If Tatum played today, he would have been forced to adjust. Those hits that made him famous now get huge fines. Suspensions come as well. The hit on Minnesota Vikings receiver Sammy White in the Super Bowl knocked White’s helmet off with a helmet-to-helmet blow. That’s illegal now. But the fans, and those who market big-hit videos, would have loved him.
With the way the game has changed, Tatum might have even been a linebacker now. The big-hitting safety that hits like a linebacker is no more. The back two are now speed, cover-the-field players. Tatum ran well, but at 200 pounds he was considered a powerfully built safety. Add 20 pounds and move him to the weak-side linebacker might have been his path.
That’s for debate. His talent isn’t. But one hit makes most out there forget that. It didn’t help that Tatum never really showed remorse for the hit.