Learned Toughness Early

May 14th, 2023
Josh Hayes

Bucs rookie DB Josh Hayes.

This is for the timeout crowd.

Listening to Bucs rookie defensive back Josh Hayes discuss growing up playing football yesterday, Joe couldn’t help but think of the growing Grand Canyon-like gap between how normal, everyday citizens live and our rapidly changing society.

It’s an era where those in control are doing their best to take football out of football. Most fans were drawn to football not just because of its addicting chess-match, poker-moves, dramatic strategy of the game, but its physical nature.

Every year the game gets softer. It is hard to argue with the financial results, but the product continues to be diluted each season.

In Roger Goodell’s league, anything physical is not just stomped out by flag-happy referees, but quashed by oppressive Machiavellian league mandates.

Again, it is difficult to argue the results, as dreadful and depressing as these measures are. The NFL is a license to print money. Its growth shows no signs of slowing as folks who work in the league openly and soberly discuss a near future with a European division.

(Don’t laugh. Prior to 2018, did you ever dream an NFL team would be in Vegas? And with Jacksonville needing a two-year temporary home beginning in 2025 due to major Gator Bowl renovations, watch the NFL plant the Jags in London as a dry run for a European division. The NFL, predictably, will then deem an overseas franchise doable and expansion teams will magically sprout in England and Germany.)

Why is Joe bringing this up? Well, as football leaders do their best to turn football into flag football, Hayes’ father — Hayes is the nephew of former Bucs linebacker Geno Hayes — brought up his son with the opposite mentality.

Hayes said yesterday when he was 10, his father instructed him to run into trees.

You read that right.

The result? Well, Hayes’ father ought to get credit for how he chose to toughen up his son. Josh Hayes is now in position to earn a spot on an NFL roster as a defensive back with the Bucs this summer.

“Shoot, I grew up running into trees, for real,” Hayes said yesterday. “My dad had me out in the yard running into trees and not being afraid of making contact with stuff, understanding how that would feel.

“I’ve been that way since I was eight or nine years old when I started playing football. Being able to make contact and not being afraid of that feeling you get when you do make that [contact], I think I’ve kind of had that since I was a little kid.

“We play an aggressive game – we play football – so being able to actually be aggressive and not be afraid of contact is part of the game.”

Joe absolutely loves this. But hey, Josh, be careful! Your attitude is what any football coach would love to have in a player. Goodell, sadly, lives in another world. A world of toney enrichment and high society exclusion.

The NFL under his boot not only frowns on good fundamental, physical play, but fines and suspends players for said plays.

As the worst Curly Howard successor, Joe Besser, often said, “Not so hhhaaarrrddd!” That’s what defense in the era of Goodell has become. A Joe Besser routine for the timeout crowd.

Watch it, Josh. Those trees in the NFL hit back, ultimately at your wallet.

29 Responses to “Learned Toughness Early”

  1. gp Says:

    Question is… Did he knock any of those trees down???

  2. ModHairKen Says:

    Ridiculous changes make the game less enjoyable like penalizing a defender for making “bad” contact with a receiver who shifts in real time in a moment that happens in the blink of an eye and making it completely one-sided, never blaming the offensive player. Or the slightest contact with a QBs head, knees, or buttocks results in 15 yards and a 1st down.

    None of this improves safety. It just creates suspicion in the outcomes. At least WWE now openly acknowledges that the outcomes are predetermined.

  3. sasquatch Says:

    You can make it about Goodell, but it’s not. Pretty much any commissioner of this league would be forced to make the game softer. It’s a legal liability thing.

  4. Ugotrobbed Says:

    Agree 100%!

  5. Lt. Dan Says:

    Yes Joe – the game is softer now than ever before. CTE issues are now front and center. A mega star getting sidelined for the year because of a shot to the knee or horse collar tackle doesn’t sell tickets. It’s about the money.

    No Joe – a father should not get credit for telling his 10 year old son to run into trees.

  6. BigMacAttack Says:

    Goodell needs to go. It’s time for new leadership and he’s been there too long. It’s gone to his head. I like that Jason Licht goes after these legacy players. Hayes, Warner, Barber and with Winfield already in the house, a pattern is developing here, and I like it. Go Bucs!!!

  7. Mike C Says:

    LT. Dan, I get CTE is a thing….. but boxing and MMA exist so…… idk maybe we just let grown men assume risk to make money like everyone with a dangerous or LIFE threatening occupation?

  8. Lt. Dan Says:

    Mike: I respect that analogy. And just for the record I’m not in favor of this softer version of today’s football. I was a Dolphins fan before the Bucs were ever established – you know, Csonka, three yards and a cloud of dust. However I do understand that the NFL is a business and is in it to make money. You know – avoid CTE lawsuits and keep the stars on the field.

  9. BigMacAttack Says:

    Mike, I like many other fans agree with you.

  10. Fansince76 Says:

    Running into trees as a Kid!
    OK now I love this guy and hope he is our starting nickel back come September.

  11. ATLBuc Says:

    I’m old school when it comes to football but I can tolerate the safety direction the league is taking. Joe, when you sit on your couch and drool on your stomach it’s because of drinking too much Big Storm Brewery beer. But there are some guys who are drooling on their stomachs 24 seven because of the lack of safety precautions when they were playing professional football.
    So, I don’t mind sacrificing some of the violence for the sake of the health of the players.

  12. Kramden Says:

    Well said, ATLBuc.

  13. DBS Says:

    Exactly. Football players making this game get softer for safety and legal reasons. B!tech all you want but it is not going to change., I feel the same way. They know the risk of this game when they sign up to play it. They are the ones making it turn out to be flag football.

  14. PSL Bob Says:

    IMO, the biggest problem is the roughing the passer call. Last year there were a lot of clean hits that resulted in 15-yard penalties. I get not wanting to take QB’s out of the game – hits to the head, hits to the knees,etc., But come on man.

  15. FrontFour Says:

    Ok, Joe get credit for the Joe Besser, Curly Howard successor. Brings me back.

  16. LakelandSteve Says:

    That brought back some memories, when I was a youngster first learning how to tackle and block my father would make me hit our Oak tree in the front yard. I would hit it so hard I would see stars. I never even made the damn tree shake. However, I was never afraid to hit anyone after that. So I get it. Was it the best thing to do? I don’t know but it definitely served it’s purpose and yup it toughened me up.

  17. teacherman777 Says:

    Our next badass nickle.

    Our next Ronde Barber.

    You’ll see.

    He will make splash plays on special teams this year

    A couple forced fumbles. A couple fumble recoveries.

    You’ll see.

    RIP Geno Hayes. (He played hard on some BAD teams)

  18. Rand Says:

    Sadly not one bit of hyperbole in your statement Joe, …truth! Who’d ever thought that someday you can make millions playing essentially flag football.

  19. garro Says:

    Does anyone know if Goodell ever played football? I can usually tell whether or not someone has played or not after speaking to them a bit about the game. Big difference in watching it on TV and playing it.

  20. Irishmist Says:

    So he knows how to bring the wood.

  21. garro Says:

    This is why there is a special place in hell for lawyers. Goodell is a spoiled rich boy who has never even seen the mean streets.

  22. Cobraboy Says:

    In college, we had a guy from a very prominent local family whose pre-game ritual was running into a toilet stall door head-first, like a human battering ram. We cheered him on.

    In a bowl game, we had a senior, his last game ever, come off the field with mangled fingers on one hand. By himself, he straightened then out, through much pain, and taped them together with two tongue depressors. He played the second, his final, half. He later became the head coach for a gloried Tampa high school program.

    The world is soft. Football has become soft. No two-a-days? WTF? And we wonder what happened to fundamentals?

    Search youtube for “VGUL4zdNU9k”

    The NFL reflects Goodell’s personal softness. He’s afraid of hysterical karen mothers who want to masculinize their female and feminize their male spawn.

    It’s only going to get worse.

    I am glad I’m old…

  23. Cobraboy Says:

    @ATL: clearly, you never played.

    Every kid who played football in HS or beyond KNEW it was a tough, physical game. I doubt 1% would opt out of playing if they knew possible long-term consequences.

    I had dinner last year with two brothers, both of Gator fame, one of Buc legendary fame. The former Buc has CTE progressed to a poor stage. I asked him if he had any regrets. He said, in essence, “no”, that even though life didn’t turn out the way he expected, his career was glorious and he’d change little…except maybe playing pro for another team instead of the CulverBucs.

    I’m having a hip issue from hundreds of thousands of repetitive, violent motions from football; I count maybe 600,000 over 13 years. I suspect in 3 or so years a hip replacement is in the stars. Do I regret anything? Beyond regret for relying on pure talent and no time in the weight room, no I don’t. I suspect lack of weight training aided in a career-ending neck injury.

  24. Bojim Says:

    Much respect for the guys that retired early because they didn’t want to be crippled, mind and body for the rest of their lives. Much respect for anybody that plays a physical sport.

  25. 1sparkybuc Says:

    Anyone else remember a WR paralyzed for life? I do. I don’t remember if the hit he took drew a penalty or not, but I do remember the defender celebrating the play he made. The game has changed because the players have changed. I remember when they’re just one defensive lineman in the entire league who weighed 300 pounds. Minnesota had a guy playing DT at 220 pounds, and I believe he’s in their ROH if not in Canton. He likely couldn’t make the roster at any position today. The players today are bigger, stronger, and faster at virtually every position on the team. The rule book had to change to reflect that. Teams in the ‘50s and ‘60s didn’t have the equipment that players do today, but I don’t remember players having so many joint and hamstring issues like they do today. Football used to be a 5 or 6 month job. Now guys have to work most of the year. Anybody here old enough to remember 10 game seasons? Now we’re on the verge of 18 game seasons. That’s crazy. And then there’s talk of the league going international, so I guess it becomes the IFL. It can’t be National anymore. I’m getting old, no I am old, and I’m starting to lose interest anymore. Good luck to my Bucs. I hope to see Trask extend the tradition of pocket passers winning Lombardi trophies for Tampa.

  26. Browsing from DC Says:

    Taking safety measures is understandable but when so many are “judgment calls” and can’t be challenged they impact the game play far too much. The automatic 15 yards and 1st down for roughing the passer is a perfect example. If the defense makes a great play on 3rd down and sacks the QB, it gets erased if his pinkie touches the QB’s helmet or if he “falls on the QB too hard”. That’s a potentially game-changing penalty. Why aren’t there “degrees” for roughing the QB like there are for the kicker? 5 yards for a ticky-tack penalty, 10 yards for something a little more violent and personal foul (15 yards, auto 1st down) for a blatant attempt to hurt the QB.

    Inadvertently making contact with his head should be 5 yards but added AFTER the play as to not negate the sack. After all, the sack wasn’t the result of the head contact (the sack would have happened with or without it) same as letting your body weight fall on the QB. How is a 300 lb lineman supposed to levitate or float to the ground while making a sack?

    And some of these game-changing penalties should be reviewable. Hitting the quarterbacks knees is definitely a big no-no but if a guy is blocked into his knees, that’s “incidental contact” and should be reviewable.

    I have no issue with the league reviewing questionable hits post-game and handing out fines and/or suspensions. It doesn’t impact the game in progress and it’s “hopefully” been looked at and judged accordingly.

    I’m all for player safety but contact is part of the game. I don’t expect to see a “Thunderdome” scenario where there are no rules either . The NFL needs to do better at finding a middle ground. Protect the integrity of the game AND the players’ health.

    I don’t put it all on Goodell. Coaches and especially owners who are on the “rules committee” are equally at fault if not more so.

  27. ATLBuc Says:

    Lakeland Kathleen and UF baby. But who said anything about opting out of football? I merely gave my opinion about changes being made to keep players safer. Actually, since more information has become available about CTE there have been many players cut their careers short, ala Ali Marpett, with their brain health in mind.
    I still live the physical aspects of football but I can still enjoy the game without helmet to helmet and hits leading with the helmet.
    Oh! And if you want to question my playing football, find some footage from the John McKay show and you will see some of my football baseball basketball and track trophies on the bookshelf in the background.

  28. stpetebucfan Says:


    Always respect your opinion because of your experience which is clearly far greater than mine. I bailed in HS football because I had what I guess was a glass jaw. I could handle pain throughout my body but I HATED the dizziness and blackouts that came from taking a shot to the noggin. My best friend on our team was a star RB but he missed his senior year because of the concussions he had received.

    So I do not disagree with your assessment below the neck but above the neck I’m glad I “wimped” out from getting knocked silly too often.

    Apparently none other than Warren Sapp is now also concerned about noggins.

    Ironically I’m not so old I played with leather helmets LOL…but those were actually safer than what we use today. Players take so much confidence from face masks and improved hard materials in their helmets to lead with their head when they can get away with it.

    Exhibit A. Aussie rule football! Not for sissies! No modern helmets but far fewer concussions because guys do not lead with their noggins. Just sayin’.

  29. Drunkinybor Says:

    After they changed a sack into a penalty. I lost interest by about 75 percent. I still eill always be a Bucs fan. My skull and bones tattoo and my pirate ship tattoo aren’t going anywhere. But they took a exciting great play and turned it into hissy fit cry baby quarter backs getting calls for flopping like electrocuted wet noodles. It’s a embarrassment. No you can’t make a throat slash. No you can’t celebrate too much. No you can’t tackle anyone except in this tiny 13 degree radius on the body. No you can’t be physical with wide recievers. Dont dare be a meany face. Don’t dare pick somebody up and tackle them. Let the receiver I’m the Air come down with the ball then tou can touch them. On and on sissy crap