Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Goldson unavailable when needed most

TAMPA

The Bucs are about to face the best receiver on the planet.

His name is Calvin Johnson. They call him Megatron. He's big and fast and strong and probably could catch a small plane if he tried.

For games like this, the Bucs have safety Dashon Goldson. He, too, is big and fast and strong and it's his job to help stop receivers such as Johnson. In fact, the Bucs gave Goldson a lot of money — a little more than $41 million — to do so.

Yet this Sunday, you know where Goldson will be?

I'll tell you where he won't be. He won't be in Detroit. He won't be standing across from Megatron. He won't be helping the Bucs. That's because he has been suspended for an illegal hit to a defenseless receiver's head.

Despite fines totaling nearly $400,000 and enough yellow flags thrown his way to stitch together a king-sized comforter, Goldson still hasn't figured out that you can't act like a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot knocking people's blocks off.

And now you have to question if paying Goldson all that money was worth it.

The best ability is availability, and Goldson is not available in a game when they, arguably, need him the most. All because he is hard-headed — in more ways than one.

Shouldn't we have seen this coming? Goldson has a history of these kinds of hits.

Shouldn't the Bucs have seen this coming? You can't get yourself a mean dog then be surprised when he bites the letter carrier.

The irritating part — well, other than the fact that he won't be playing Sunday — is that he hasn't adjusted his style even though the league, more concerned than ever about concussions and player safety, has made it clear that you just can't tackle this way anymore.

"It's the best game in the world and we don't want to let it get jeopardized by (such hits),'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "The adjustment by the league, I understand it. We have to play within those rules. We have done a good job in a lot of ways doing that, but not in this instance."

Most of the league has adjusted. Not Goldson. Since 2010, Goldson has been called for 13 personal fouls.

He was fined $30,000 for a hit to the head in this season's opener. Then he was suspended for one game for an illegal hit in the second game, but the suspension was overturned and reduced to a fine of $100,000.

Here's more bad news: Goldson is now a major repeat offender and unless he makes some major changes, this won't be his last suspension. You think the league is ever going to give this guy the benefit of the doubt?

Goldson claims he is not a dirty player, that he has no intention of trying to injure anyone. But he keeps playing the same way.

And now he has to sit out a game. Doesn't that make you angry?

"I'm not angry at him, I wish we had him,'' Schiano said. "Dashon is a great guy to have on your football team. He's a great teammate, and he's a great guy to coach. We've just got to get that fixed. We've got to get that adjusted.''

Those who defend Goldson will say this is the only way he has ever played the game. He lowers his head and — boom! — delivers the types of hits that rattle teeth and end up on NFL Films.

Maybe some hits can't be helped.

"A guy can be running at you and ducks his head,'' Bucs safety Mark Barron said. "What are you supposed to do? All you can do is try to play the game the way they want us to play it.''

Maybe Goldson was born 10 or 20 years too late. Not all that long ago, he would have been celebrated like John Lynch or Jack Tatum — safeties feared and revered for blowing up receivers. Let's also not ignore that Goldson went to two Pro Bowls playing this style, and if the Bucs hadn't given him all that money, another team surely would have.

The problem for Goldson and the Bucs is that the rules changed from underneath their feet. Goldson isn't alone. According to the Bucs, 10 other NFL safeties have received at least two unnecessary roughness penalties this season.

"The rules of the game are forever adjusting,'' Schiano said, "and they've adjusted this year in 2013 more than they have in the past.''

That's true.

And, if you look back at the timing of it all, the Bucs signed Goldson right before the league decided to crack down on high hits by dishing out suspensions as well as fines.

Even if the Bucs knew that signing Goldson was risky, it might have been worth it. The Bucs were among the worst pass defenses in NFL history last season, and Goldson was, arguably, the best defensive back available in free agency. They made the deal before they knew they were getting cornerback Darrelle Revis.

There's no question that Goldson and Revis have made the Bucs pass defense better. After finishing last in the NFL last season, the Bucs are 18th against the pass this season. Not great, but better.

Those numbers, however, might get a lot worse if you see Megatron running wild through the Bucs secondary this Sunday, a secondary that will be missing Dashon Goldson.

Ain't that a kick in the head?

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