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. G

    There's a reason these guys get paid so much. Nobody wants to watch pro athletes caress each other up and down the field. America has gone soft - nut up or shut up.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. samuel

    keep it up because if this contiues it could leadto death

    October 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Duck

    Seems to me that changing the rules will make the sport less exciting. I hate seeing anyone permanently injured or killed but it is a contact sport. I'm guessing it's too much to ask the players to have common sense and practice ethical behavior.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. steph

    how about the clothes lines that linebackers like butkis would put on someone crossing the middle?

    October 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • crying game

      Butkis was a dirty player. That is why Mean Joe spit in his face. Butkis liked cheap, dirty plays, while Joe and Lambert wanted to drive you into the ground because you had, have or were getting the ball.
      Harrison is putting hits on recievers to let them know do not try to run, catch the ball in my erea. Since he was cut once, paid the minimum, I guess he has a grudge that all the smart mouth talking WR's out there.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chisel

    These posts just confirm how stupid and selfish Americans have become, former post from Adam actually stated: Chirstian's not an NFL team and football is a violent sport and people are just going to have to deal with it. . He was commenting on a previous comment where Samantha was refering to the Romans and how they sacrificed Christians to lions, not the Detroit Loins. Adam is a moron. True its a contact sport and I played in high school and college (Oklahoma State 84-88). But to say that players all make millions of dollars and they desereve what the get for the sake of your entertainment descibes the level of state the typical inbreed, fat, lazy couch sitting fan is. If you dont play or have a vested intrest in the "game" (its not a war), you need to keep your uneducated mouth shut and watch from your seat.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Marvic

    After this ruling, they should look at new rules for boxing. Some of those are pretty violent hits also.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JonPeter, Hartford, CT

    Instead of rules, go back to leather helmets, minimal pads and get rid of the cleats. players have learned to use the modern body armor as a weapon. Get rid of it and the hits will be less brutal.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brian B

    Roger GODell: Ruining the NFL one season at a time. Undoubtedly this will end up with referees having the power to eject someone for a seemingly 'vicious' hit. I will stop watching the first time James Harrison gets ejected for a LEGAL hit. Atleast when an NHL ref tossed Kris Letang for a legal hit, the NHL manned up and removed the penalty from his record.

    It won't help however when someone gets ejected for a legal hit and it completely changes the outcome of a game.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bill

    These guys make millions of dollars a year for playing such a dangerous job. Ask them if they want to change the game to flag or touch football and take a paycut to below a salary between $50K and $100K. I doubt many people would want to watch it on TV, Soccer would be more exciting to watch.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • ThowCatchRunBall

      Soccer is more entertaining to watch. You get 90 minutes of action (if you know what you're looking at) in 110 minutes of tv time. Football you get maybe 35 to 40 minutes in three hours worth of tv time. Yawn...

      October 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Zac

      Yea, soccer is so fun to watch . . . just like a movie. . . they are all actors !!!! Soccer used to be good, now its just a bunch of prima donnas !!

      October 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Carol

    Suspensions x 2 and if a player does it a 3rd time, you are now suspended indefinitely!

    October 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michael

    Football is a stupid game..........all of 20 – 30 minutes of action in a 3-hour spectacle........may as well watch friggin' baseball. I say to do like soccer.....minimal pads, no helmets....they'll dial things down in a hurry.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian B

      The NHL walks the line the best in terms of a mix of action, speed, and physicality. Americans don't like hockey though because it takes a minimal amount of knowledge to understand it. American sports are neanderthalic. Hit ball. Throw ball. Tackle guy. That's about all your average American sports fan can understand while sloshing around the bar telling everyone how much their job sucks.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • crying game

      Brian B, really. Americans don't like Hockey because how do you have ice in Cal, Florida. Go to Detroit and say that.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. chaz Rassuli

    That's the last straw,first it was woman announcers on the sidelines where there should be men,the second was promoting womans issues,wearing pink on the field,give me a break, it should of been a mans heath issue cause ,now not to hit,"as with our culture now ,the wimping of America,time to watch rugby.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NFL FAN

    The increasingly violent nature of the game is exactly the reason that I've gravitated away from it. This is suppose to be a game meant to entertain. It seems that our society has increasingly come to define entertainment as something that injures or kills someone – seen television or any movies lately? Our culture has is sick. It's time for another flood.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Keith In FL

    I'm all for for hard hits – let em' hit. More technology is necessary in the helmet department though. Especially, the chin strap and neck protection area, the chin strap needs to be bigger and more able to take the impact. Your most vulnerable area is your chin when you get hit. If you have ever had a helmet from a DB come up and hit you int he chin, you know what I mean – instant concussion.They also need some sort of small device like the "Hans" device (Nascar) for football. Then everyone can play as rough as they want and not break their necks.

    Dont hold them back, let the game advance but protect the player... the technology is out there – use it. When the Hans device came out, Nascar drivers didn't use it because it impeded their mobility, now, every driver wears one.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. MikeyBoy

    It's part of the game. If thats they picked to do in life then they must suffer the thru the pain.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
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