American football has always been a sport in which full physical contact upon players is allowed within the rules of the game. On each play, the offense and defense are set on a collision course to gain an advantage over the other. The object for the offense is to advance the ball and score. The defense’s job is simple, extinguish that advancement by attacking the ball carrier by any means necessary, within the rules. With the physicality comes injures and some can even be life threatening.
In the wake of a several alarming hits this past Sunday, the NFL is implementing tougher penalties against players who commit dangerous hits towards an opponent’s head. These sanctions will include larger fines, as well as suspensions for first time offenders, which will take place as early as this Sunday’s games.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, and Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, all were fined by the NFL for what was deemed vicious helmet-to-helmet contact with an opponent.
Harrison was fined $75,000 for his actions against two Cleveland Browns’ players. The NFL ruled that one of the hits by Harrison was legal and the other one , which wasn’t ruled a penalty during the game, violated the leagues head spearing policy. The stiffest fine was set mainly due to Harrison’s history of questionable hits as he was fined earlier this season for driving Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young’s body into the ground. Dunta Robinson was fined $50,000 for a vicious hit on Philly wide-out DeSean Jackson. Robinson also suffered an injury as a result of the hit. Brandon Meriweather was fined $50,000 for basically using his head as a guided missile to strike Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap in a helmet-to-helmet collision.
I support the league’s efforts in cracking down illegal hits on defenseless players, but the NFL needs to be consistent with its rulings. Although Dunta Robinson’s hit on DeSean Jackson was vicious, it was a legal hit. Period! Robinson didn’t pole vault into the air to hit Jackson nor did he hit him in the crown with his helmet, yet the NFL overreacted because all the injuries happened in the same week. If anything, the league should fine Philly’s quarterback Kevin Kolb for setting up Jackson with that ridiculous pass (I’m just saying).
This league was built on violence. There’s nothing safe about a 175 pound wide receiver going across the middle colliding with a 250 pound linebacker or a 245 pound running back plowing over a defensive back that weighs 180 pounds. That’s the nature of the sport. Once again, hitting a defenseless player deliberately in the head should be taken seriously and that player should be fined and suspended. There’s no room for these actions in the sport. What’s more alarming is that the NFL has made enormous profits out of these same types of plays. For example, the NFL has made a lot of money on its series called “NFL Greatest Hits”. Where’s the concern there? How hypocritical is it for the NFL to lay down fines to these three players and then turn around and have the pictures of these actions available for purchase on the league’s website? It took some pressure from ESPN’s, “Mike and Mike in the Morning” radio talk show, for the league to revisit this and eventually take the pictures down! Where’s the justice in that?
As the NFL moves to improve the safety of its players, we’ll see how key consistency will be in determining what’s legal and what’s not. For now, the jury is still out on it!
By Keith Madyun