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Three attempts to define the term “killing the head”


When stumped by the meaning of new sayings, I usually check

But there’s no entry (yet) for"killing the head.” So I’ve had to search elsewhere.

And, like many words on or in other more traditional collections of words and definitions, I’ve come up with three possible meanings.

The first comes from attorney Peter Ginsberg, who represents Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

“Killing the head wasn’t part of the bounty program, it wasn’t part of the pay-for-performance program. It was a statistic that [defensive coordinator Gregg] Williams kept to show the players who was leading the team with good hard and direction-changing hits,” Ginsberg said on Tuesday’s PFT Live. “He led the team in those sorts of tremendous hits, and if you look at his penalties for the year, he was one of the least penalized players.”

The second, far less unequivocal, definition comes from NFL senior V.P. of labor law and policy Adolpho Birch, who also appeared on Tuesday’s PFT Live.

“What does killing the head mean?” I asked.

“Well, I guess I would ask you that,” Birch said. “What would it mean to you?”

After explaning that I doubt it refers to the commission of murder (especially since Vilma was listed by the Saints as having 62 of them in 2010), Birch continued without providing a definition. “What I think is that there is a large body of material and evidence that discusses this program,” Birch said. “The program was there, this is part of the terminology that was used. It’s only one part of it. There were several other terms that reflected these same sort of categories of the program. And I think you’d do yourself a disservice by trying to identify specifically what one term is versus another. I think you’re better advised to look at the overall program and understand this is what it meant. And I think that any rational and sensible person upon reviewing the evidence comes to that conclusion.”

The third definition comes from a source with knowledge of the manner in which Williams privately has explained the term, but in light of the sensitivity of the subject requested not to be identified. According to the source, Williams defines it to mean applying a helmet-to-helmet hit to a runner whose progress is in the process of otherwise being stopped.

So there you have it. Three different definitions, one of which is slightly more problematic than the others.