Michael Vick believes officials are reluctant, slow or disinterested in calling illegal hits on him, which is the natural outgrowth of making a rule for quarterback safety that changes every nine minutes in a culture that praises injury-causing hits and in many cases actually rewards them.
Thus, the 49ers have an ethical quandary Sunday in Philadelphia. Do they go for the gusto as their forefathers did and target Vick, or if Vick cannot play, do they go for the gusto and target Mike Kafka instead?
Because this is football, I have no illusions about what the 49ers would do with any Eagle quarterback on Sunday. They would do what they have been coached to do, and their coaches were taught to do, and their coaches before them, back to the days of the flying wedge and Theodore Roosevelt wanting to ban the sport because of its violence and carnage.
The last report, that Vick actually has a hand contusion and not a broken hand, as was reported before, or a head injury, which was reported before that, suggests that he might very well be a go for Sunday.
CSNPhilly: Vick wonders where the flags are
That said, the fact that teams are as pathological about hiding injuries as they are not suggests but screams that they all target injuries, and if there are no injuries to target, dont mind initiating them. Football is a war game in the minds of those playing it, and war is attrition.
True, this violates all the codes about respect and sportsmanship and honor that football likes to trumpet for itself, but mostly the sport is as it has always been a violent game played by violent men encouraged in their violence by superiors who used to be violent men on the field themselves.
In other words, whatever Vicks surprise at not being protected Sunday against the Giants and before that, he should understand that it isnt going to change. The game runs too fast to be officiated correctly in all instances, and even a replay of a head shot that results in a penalty or even a suspension doesnt negate the head shot.
And Roger Goodells intention to save the highest-paid players be damned, a head shot on a quarterback pretty much always works.
Thus, the 49ers will absolutely come after Michael Vick, with his head, or hand, or torso, or legs as the target. They will be undeterred by the frightful beatings their own quarterback, Alexander D. Smith, takes on a weekly basis, nor in the world in which they operate, should they. These are the conditions that prevail.
We will see, however, if the 49ers are deterred by repeated penalties from unloading on Vick. Were guessing not, of course, but a few personal fouls has one of the two following effects: It either stops it, or it makes it worse.
And whoever wins is the one with more points on the scoreboard. You cant get more nakedly Darwinian than that.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.