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. Robert

    I have enjoyed watching football for many years, but the brutality has to stop. What other sport has people launching themselves full speed, head first, with a hard helmet weapon at another player's head, who is also running full speed but looking the other way at a ball? What other sport regularly has players getting paralyzed, brain damaged for life, and dying? I love football as a sport, but football in its current form should be banned by Congress. I cannot see how top athletes should risk their lives and permanent physical and mental incapacitation for a game. Football has become barbaric and evokes Roman gladiators killing their victims for sport. How can this continue in modern day?

    October 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Celia

      Nobody is holding a gun to the players' heads forcing them to play. Players know and accept the risks and stop playing whenever they want. All athletes should prepare themselves financially for a time when they can no longer compete, but while they are competing, play all out and make it entertaining for the fans.I

      f anything, the NFL is becoming too soft. Penalties for endzone celebrations, pass interference and unsportsmanlike conduct should all go away. Just penalize the technical stuff like offsides or false starts.

      October 19, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Professional football players never expect to become paralyzed, permanently brain damaged, or die from a sport they have been playing since they were kids. To trivialize the risk is to dehumanize these athletes as some video game characters instead of real people.

      October 19, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. yahwehufos

    its not fun when you have to watch how hard you hit

    October 19, 2010 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Robert

    A simple solution: No helmets, and no hitting with your head.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. yahwehufos

    lets change from football to rugby, problem solved

    October 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Maximus

    Football is a gladiator sport. Sadly, all do not survive...

    October 19, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Elperroguapo

    Funny how this becomes a big deal every couple years or so. Football has always involved risk of concussion and paralysis. This has not changed, only our perception of it. Most times, helmet to helmet hits happen quite accidentally, when both players instinctively lower their heads before a collision. That type of instinct is rather difficult to officiate out of the game, particularly given the speed with which it is now played. However, spearing (or leading with your crown of your head) has always been illegal, and should be enforced on both defensive AND offensive players. Other than that I think the rules as they stand now are sufficient. If they want to enforce them more stringently so be it.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Michael

    How about we take away headshots in War! That maims and kills! The NFL is a gladiator sport, that's why they get their millions. If it wasn't for violence in the NFL these guys we be getting paid minimum wage. How can you tell players in run 40 yd dashes in 4 seconds to slow down, and rethink their angles when tackling. They don't play in slow motion and get replays like we do on tv.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Anne

    Anyone not willing to get hurt playing football is nothing but a cheerleader! these guys know what they are doing! dont turn football into the WWE! ITS RIDICULOUS!!!!!! Football is all about hard hits and concussions! and the person that said if u had loved ones playing i might think differently... Doubtful i have a 5 year old son who is going to start pop warner as soon as he can!

    October 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Blackbeered

    I'd like to suggest that the way to control the mayhem is to enact a weight or BMI constraint.

    Players should be limited to less than 200 pounds, less than 6'0" ... and not able to run 40 yds in under 8 seconds.

    When two flies collide at under 10 mph ... how much damage can there be?

    October 19, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Silly Human.

      October 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. pit

    Playing in NFL is a high risk high return career.
    To eliminate injuries completely, you better ban the game entirely.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Robert

    As a season ticket holder, I bring my 6 year old son to watch pro football games with me, but I will NEVER risk ruining his life by allowing him to play tackle football.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  12. johnny orlando

    Without awesome deadly hits our national heritage will become pussified like rugby. Sure those guys lose teeth and get bruised up but i never hit or got hit as hard in a rugby match as i did in a simple highschool football game. America needs guys who arent afraid of killing another person in front of a national tv audience

    October 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob

    We have athletes that make millions of dollars a year and we are concerned about "hitting"and "injury." However, how much thought do we put into the average soldier, marine, seaman and airmen who lives with the threat of losing life and limb everyday. And, he or she can make as little as $25K per year.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. anotherwhiner

    Finally! Maybe we can get back to some actual tackling. I'm so tired of seeing some showboat launch himself at a ball carrier only to often miss and allow more forward progress. It also undermines everything young players are taught about the game. Maybe next the league will get back to having players wear properly sized helmets so we don't see exposed heads every time a player makes the slightest contact and his helmet pops off.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Allen

    Let's look at the Physics involved. Momentum = mass x velocity, therein known as ft-lbs (sounds better than). So there are several ways to change the product of the equation. Most football players weigh 200 to 300 pounds and run at full speeds up to 30 feet per second. Therefore football players should not be allowed to weigh over 150 pounds and all plays executed in the Olympic sport speed of Fast Walking (up to 10 feet per second maximum). Ban hard plastic helmets and shoulder pads, replace with large foam rubber padding 6 to 10 inches (confer with NASA for safety suggestion). And to protect their most valuable asset on the field, all Quarterbacks will wear all "Pink Uniforms".

    October 19, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
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