Posts Tagged ‘$75000 fine’

NFL clamps down on hits, what’s next, touch football?

October 21, 2010 2 comments

The recent hot topic in the NFL is the matter of illegal hits by players and how the league are looking to stamp out these illegal hits to reduce the risks of serious injuries amongst players. The league showed their current tough stance on the matter by handing out three huge fines to James Harrison, Dunta Robinson and Brandon Meriweather hitting them hard at the wallet after they hit hard to the helmet. In total, 11 players have been fined this week and the NFL have come out firing with these fines and the league has stated that fines will continue for dangerous hits with the possibility of players also being suspended.

Steelers linebacker Harrison suffered the largest fine for an illegal hit this week

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Harrison’s fine has been the biggest talking point after the player stated he would consider retiring from the game as a result of it because he didn’t feel as if he could continue to play if he wasn’t allowed to play how has done since a child. Harrison has developed into one of the premier defenders in the NFL over the last few seasons, becoming renowned for his strength and pace to beat blockers and make big hits on ball carriers and the quarterback. However, the league decided that his hit to the helmet of Cleveland Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi deemed a $75,000 fine although he was not penalized during the game for the hit. Harrison was also fined $5,000 dollars earlier in the season for a hit on Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young. Robinson and Meriweather were both fined $50,000 dollars for their hits. Meriweather was also penalized during the game with a 15 yard penalty for his helmet to helmet hit on Baltimore tight end Todd Heap and has since apologised for the hit stating that he would “play within the rules” from now on.

Clearly vexed by the fine, Harrison was excused from Steelers practice on Wednesday giving him time to sort out his emotions and so he himself could decide if retiring was what he wanted to do, although the Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin expected him back the next day, and Harrison did return to the team in preparation for the weekends game in Miami.

To many, including myself, Harrison’s reaction to his fine may seem a little over the top. Although the fine is undeniably huge, the reasons for it are understandable. In the last season or two, head and neck injuries and in particular concussions have become the big worries for the NFL as they look to increase protection to players. The rules on hits to defenseless receivers and helmet to helmet tackles have changed in an attempt to increase safety and these fines and threat of suspensions demonstrates how seriously the NFL is taking the matter.

Nobody wants to see players seriously injured during games, and the NFL will always try to improve safety to players, especially on the back of a spate of similar injuries or a major incident such as the Kevin Everett injury in 2007. Everett suffered a fracture and dislocation of the cervical spine when playing on special teams for the Buffalo Bills that was described as life threatening by doctors. However Everett did make good strides in his recovery and managed to walk out at the Bills final home game of the same season just over three months later. After Everett’s injury, the league decided that system teams used to block for kick returner’s, using a wedge made up of a number players charging down the field, was to dangerous and the rule was changed to limit the number of players allowed to form a blocking wedge to 2 players.

Although anyone can understand that player safety is of paramount importance, the NFL has been built upon tough defenders who strike fear into the hearts of opponents because they know they are going to be hit, and hit hard. Harrison is not the only defender to come out and express his disappointment and concerns about the new hard-line taken by the NFL. A number of the best defensive players, and unsurprisingly the hardest hitters in the league are worried about how the game is developing. Baltimore Ravens linebacker told that the way things are going “the game will be diluted very quickly.” Lewis has always been a fearsome defender and he has expressed that he won’t be changing anything about his game because of the league’s official view. “My opinion is play the game like that game is supposed to be played, and whatever happens, happens”.

Another veteran defender, Arizona Cardinals’ Joey Porter told There’s no more hitting hard. That’s what our game is about. It’s a gladiator sport”. A number of other players voiced their concerns to including Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman “”What they’re trying to say — ‘we’re protecting the integrity’ — no, you’re not…It’s ruining the integrity. It’s not even football anymore. We should just go out there and play two-hand touch Sunday if we can’t make contact” and Miami linebacker Channing Crowder “If I get a chance to knock somebody out, I’m going to knock them out and take what they give me,” Crowder said. “They give me a helmet, I’m going to use it”.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says the league isn't changing rules, simply enforcing them.

Players are clearly worried as to how the league officials are fighting against illegal hits. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated to “It is incumbent on all of us to support the rules we have in place to protect players” and the leagues executive vice president, Ray Anderson agreed that tough football was what fans wanted and what the league wanted and that they are not trying to get away from that, but what the league wants is to remove the illegal and dangerous hits that can put players careers at risk.

No doubt this debate will continue throughout the season and there will probably be more fines and punishments handed out to players by the league. The debate itself simply adds to another problem to the negotiations for the new collective bargaining agreement for next season, causing more worries that there will not be any football to debate about next season.

One thing the league must do is maintain a consistent and fair approach to the punishments they intend to give out. The legality of a hit should not be judged on the outcome of that hit. If a player is injured because of a hit, it does not automatically become an illegal hit. Regardless of whether an injury occurs or not, there should be a clear distinction between the legal and the illegal.

The NFL has a long history of violent and aggressive play that has contributed to its success, not only in America but across the globe. Many fans are attracted to the ferocity of the game and whenever you see a big hit laid on a ball carrier, there is a collective gasp of awe followed by huge cheers around the stadium. I agree that it is important to try to protect players wherever possible but if players are worried of receiving serious repercussions for performing the big tackles, there is a chance that the game will become a slightly watered down version of what it once was.