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. D

    Why not rig the helmets so that if they hit another helmet, both players get the you know what shocked out of them and their helmets light up? woohoo, fireworks! =)

    October 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. J. Bowen

    How did they ever play the game in the 50's & 60's with players like Butkus, Nitschke who only wore simple helmets with no face protection? That's right, they used skill, speed, and knowledge of the game instead of ramming oversized, reinforced helmets with face cages into other players. Butkus – with or without a helmet – would any of the cheap players today.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. modest

    I almost agreed with the folks who say no helmets, but wait. Isn't that why we have helmets now: Because the mentality of the football player changed so much, that he was willing to go after the intentional hit-to take a man out? The players control the nature of the game, not the padding. Hey look everything gets regulated once in a while. Footballs no exception. People don't like it...get in line. It's America, everyone has to give some freedom.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. truthinrock

    Poor millionaires are finally earning their pay.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. keys

    I can't it any more. I have read as many responces as I can take. Everybody complaining about the hits in the NFL, saying our view pts would be different if we have loved ones in the league, saying we thinks its ok cause all we do is sit on the couch. Well I'm here to tell you. Shutup!! The ones saying all that obviously haven't played the sport or don't know anyone who's played at a lvl higher than middle school. Cause If you have or do the you know that's all you wanna do on the field, is to get a hit to make the other guy want to quit. I understand the head to head. I get that, even on the it falls on both offensive and defensive player. That stuff is part of the fundamentals of football. But otherwise big hits is football. If you can't hit and you are in the league I don't know how you made it through highschool football. And to shut the ones up who is saying I haven't or don't know anyone who's played.. I have and I do. After middle school if you don't want to get hurt then don't pad up any more cause you get on the field and pls soft then you will get smashed.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Shkima

    I agree with Samantha. It is a violent sport and I would not want to have any of my loved ones hurt or anyones for that matter. The Steelers have been known for their dirty tactics and some people believe this makes them a good team just because they hold the most rings. ITs a game not blood sport and shame on people for being willing to exploit their loved ones because they make millions even if it does cause brain damage. The money the players are paid should be paid to our teachers, and put back into ours schools so America will have a better future then we have today. I never understood why professional sports in the US took a back seat to educatiion or why its ok to when a championship but not the honor roll. A player was paralyized this weeked!! Over a "violent" game. How good is all the money he earned now except to pay for someone to push him around in a stroller.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Arthur

    I just attended the national Young Onset Parkinson Conference in Atlanta Georgia. One of the topics of discussion was head trauma and its relation to Parkinson's Disease. We've got a video log from the conference. Archives of the presentations will be available at http://www.parkinson.org


    October 19, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Katie

    I love James Harrison, and I love the Steelers.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Krist H.

    I don't necessarily want anyone pro athlete to get hurt, but football is a contact sport. I got hurt playing when I was a kid, it goes with the territory. as fans we want action and a lot of it, we pay these guys millions to risk their life for our entertainment. if they don't want to potentially get hurt then go be a golfer or better yet get a real crappy job like the rest of us!

    October 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. joe

    I say leave everything the way it is, cause any type of rule change will lower the chances of some enterprising player making a legendary name for himself as the man who cripples Michael Vick!

    October 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Hard Hat

    Nerf the Helmet.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jon

    These people are paid BIG bucks to be taking those hits, leave the sport alone. Or go play golf or some other past time.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. carolyn

    Nomorecrying....back atcha, moron.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. blahh

    NFL is rigged. everyone knows it.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. paulbark

    Please let me know where I can contribute to the James Harrison fund. I want the NFL, not the NWL (National Wimp League).

    October 19, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
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