October 19th, 2010
11:59 AM ET

NFL looking at rules after weekend of violent hits

A rash of injuries from helmet-to-helmet hitting has the National Football League reviewing its approach to the practice.

Several players were injured Sunday in what some fans and observers perceived as a particularly violent weekend of football.

That led to an announcement from the NFL on Tuesday saying while the league may not specifically change any rules of the game, it will be more vigilant about ejecting and/or suspending players who have made flagrant hits.

Former player Rodney Harrison, now a television commentator, was known for his vicious tackling style. He says suspensions are the only way to tone down the violence in the game.

"You didn't get my attention when you fined me five grand, 10 grand, 15 grand," Harrison said on NBC's pregame show Sunday evening. "You got my attention when I got suspended. ... You have to suspend these guys. These guys are making millions of dollars. The NFL [has to say], 'We're going to really protect our players. We're going to suspend these guys, not one game, but possibly two or more games.' "

That language - caught the attention of NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson - who told SI's Peter King the hits this weekend left him "profoundly disturbed."

He said comments like that were even more reason why the NFL needed to step up enforcement.

"After listening to the impactful words of Rodney Harrison that fines really are not a deterrent, I think we have to get across to the players that you may be facing a suspension for the kinds of hits we're seeing."
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison took two Cleveland Browns offensive players - Mohamed Massaquoi and Joshua Cribbs - out of the game with big hits Sunday, though the league ruled that the hit on Cribbs was legal. 

Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap was knocked out of the game after a devastating head-to-head hit by New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather. In a massive collision between the Philadelphia Eagles' DeSean Jackson and the Atlanta Falcons' Dunta Robinson, both players suffered concussions.

And the problem is by no means confined to the professional ranks. On Saturday, Rutgers defensive end Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down after his tackle on an Army player during a kickoff return.

The very next day on the very same field in Rutherford, New Jersey, big-hitting Detroit Lions linebacker Zack Follett was carted off after a collision with the New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul.

After reviewing the weekend's NFL violence, SI.com's  Peter King said the league must crack down hard on these devastating hits.

"The NFL has to draw a line in the sand right here, right now, and insist that the forearm shivers and leading with the helmet and launching into unprotected receivers will be dealt with severely," King wrote. "Six-figure fines. Suspensions. Ejections."

Pressure on the league to do something about head-to-head hits has been growing since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's testimony before Congress last year. The league is reluctant to change any rules in the middle of a season, but it apparently is ready to impose harsher punishment under current rules.

Players say hitting is what the game is about. Pittsburgh's James Harrison said when he hits an opposing player, his goal is not just to tackle him but to knock him out of the game. He wants them to hurt enough not to return that day, but not to suffer permanent injury.

"I don't want to injure anybody," Harrison said following Pittsburgh's 28-10 victory. "There's a big difference between being hurt and being injured. You get hurt, you shake it off and come back the next series or the next game. I try to hurt people."

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Filed under: Pro football • Sports • U.S.
soundoff (406 Responses)
  1. Gene

    What is missing is a sense of respect for your fellow players. Every player has the ability to produce a career ending hit. The respect for your fellow players should prevent any player from putting someone in his profession out of work, either temporarily or permanently.
    Professional wrestlers can severely injure their opponent at any point during the match, but they have the respect for their opponent to protect them from potential career ending hits. "Professional" football players should learn that lession.
    It comes down to whether or not a player has the self discipline and respect to think about the consequences of his actions on the field and how they effect the other players in his profession.

    October 20, 2010 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. tony

    It's due to the way they teach them to tackle. When I played in my youth I was taught to wrap a guy up and drive through him. Now it's about blowing a guy up with a big hit in the hopes of separating him from the ball. Most plays you see nowadays the defender launches himself into the ball carrier to knock him off balance, they don't grab and hold on like they used to do. If they go back to the old style of tackling it will help reduce the helmet to helmet contact. That will help, but it won't eliminate these types of hits. Fact is a lot of times a helmet to helmet collision is not intentional and not the defensive player's fault. You can aim at an offensive players midsection but offensive players are used to going low on a defensive player to get better leverage. So while the defender is going low to make a clean tackle the ball carrier is also going to go low to get better leverage on him, meaning you still have a high potential for helmet to helmet contact. I don't see where it's fair to the defender, who's not doing anything wrong or malicious, to be called when he's not aiming for the head but the offensive player goes low causing the contact. If the NFL is going to start suspending players then they need to have a committee set up to review every one of these cases to make sure it wasn't an intentional hit (make sure the offensive player doesn't react in a way that caused or contributed to the illegal hit).

    October 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Chiefs Fan

    It's a game- not lets kill the person on the other team. In baseball if the pitcher tries to hit the batter then they get ejected from the game. Sorry but I think the same thing should happen to these fottball players. They know right from wrong and what is a legal good tackel and an I'm gonna kill you tackel. If they don't then maybe they need to go back to pee wee football and learn how to wrap up.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Baseball is a NON contact sport! Not the same thing.

      October 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Common Sense

    Why not simply deal with helmet-to-helmet contact as we already do with face-mask calls? No matter what the intent, helmet-to-helmet hit will cost you 15 yards or 10 yards. Players will adjust, hard hits will still be made and intent to inflict injury can be assessed after the game when replays can be scrutinized.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. FROST


    October 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mark

    Here's a thought, why don't they make their uniforms all pink and give cute little sissy names. OMG what happen to my country?

    October 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Stop the hard helmet hits by: Taking away the helmet...DUH! The safer they make the equipment the more reckless the individual using it will be. But we all know the NFL won't take equipment away, so I say leave the game alone and let it sort itself out.

      October 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. keys

    Tony they still teach tackling like that. The big guys to separate the player from the ball is the players themselves.

    October 20, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. keys

    I ment to say hits.

    October 21, 2010 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  9. keys

    I ment to say hits

    October 21, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brian C.

    The NFL (No Fun League) will have them playing flag football in a couple years you watch.It's football..You get nailed..it's part of the game,like a NASCAR crash.I'm all for safety but the NFL has a way of overdoing it to the point of stupidty...why don't they do what they're good at and go fine someone.Maybe someone has "Tweeted" right before a game again or oh no a end zone celebration..you have sinned! FINE FOR YOU!

    October 23, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Donshai Copridge

    Yea i dont think anything wrong with the hitting. There football players they live to get hit. I mean if not why be in the leauge u dont practice not to hit them hard. Games are going to be boring no big hits players live for contact and highlights of there big hits. There going to get scared to hit after all this money people are loseing......

    December 16, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
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