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

    It is a travesty that the NFL has not suspended a single player for vicious, life-threatening helmet to helmet hits.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Noah

    They can still hit hard they need to hit the body not the head. They really need to learn how to tackle head up wrap up the body put them on the ground. Basic highschool football.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. sense4sure

    This is sad, who will decide who gets suspended or fined? Sounds kinda like this could get to where the NFL will be deciding who will play and who will not. Don't suppose that this will lead to more of the people out there saying how the games are fixed. Let these guys play football and if you don't want to watch it then watch some other sport.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Doug Schrecengost

    These helmet super head butts need to be banned. That one guy was sucker head-butted, which could have been resulted in a critical injury [or worse]. The guy who did that should be suspended for the season. Set the tone.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. ChimChim

    Really? I don't think I've seen actual contact since...maybe the 80's...maybe further back than that.

    Let them sort it out on the field, and quit throwing flags.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Fidge Perry

    Let these retards smash their heads. Nothing to hurt in there anyway. Why not make the field our of NERF, and wrap them in bubble wrap.

    October 19, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Matrix

    I saw the hit put on DeSean Jackson by Robinson. I watched it live and replays several times from several angles. IT WAS A CLEAN HIT! No helmet-to-helmet. Robinson's initial contact was in the upper chest of Jackson with his shoulder. He did not lead with this head. But they were using this hit as an example of being too rough. No, it was a clean hit that went bad. But the zebras penalized Robinson anyway, despite the fact that there was absolutely NOTHING wrong with the hit. "Defenseless receiver" Well, the purpose of pass coverage is to prevent a completion without a pass interference. Jackson was not prepared for the hit, but Robinson should not have to wait until Jackson is "ready" to be hit.

    I'm sorry both players were injured, but those things will happen. The only way to prevent that is to stop tackling all together and go to "touch" or "flag" football. No one will pay to see that crap.

    October 19, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John Tam

    A player is aiming at a moving target, you can only do so much, it is a contact sport. If you don't want to risk it than don't play.

    October 19, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Morena

    This is very sad. These players live for the game, and this is the same game that are ending with their health and life. After I read about the article of what happen to LeGrand this Saturday, I felt felt so sad. It hit me like if I knew him. I hope he gets better, and I just hope his being taken care and will be taken care of. Because when things are recent everyone is around, but when time passes by...you start seeying how the people fayed away.

    October 19, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Zep

    There needs to be an enforcible code of ethics concerning head-butting. I love American football with all the acrobatics and strategically placed blocking and tackling. However, no matter how strong one's neck muscles, the force of a head-on impact is absorbed through the "S" shaped neck vertebrae. There comes a time over many hits that the shock load is not symmetric due to muscle fatigue and the lion's share of the offset impact is transferred to the neck vertebrae.

    October 19, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. RG

    American football should learn how to tackle from rugby players.

    October 19, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. The Shrike

    OH, Sthop it! Quit hitting me or I'll scratch your eyes out! American football is so gay anyway. There is a bunch of muscle bound males, who in the middle of the field get in a cuddle where they put their arms around the other guy next to them. What? Are they checking to see who is dating who? Then they all bend over and line up with the other team. Who is also wearing sheer almost see through tights. Then there is the couple in the middle. Where's that guy's hands?!?!? Uh oh! The ultimate is the guy called the wide receiver. Don't want to be that guy. When one scores, they kiss and pat each other on the butt and dance. After they get all hot and sweaty they all go shower together.

    Rugby, now there's a man's game.

    October 19, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      Rugby is for people who need to feel like they play the roughest sport, yet they don't. Girls play rugby. As they say in Ireland, "Rugby is a game for barbarians played by gentlemen. Football is a game for gentlemen played by barbarians.".

      October 19, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ummmm

    i played football for awhile in pop warner an also in high school its a violent sport an i assure you that all of the people who play are told how to take a hit an also how to hit. accidents happen. they shouldnt make some god awful rule because the guys are doin there job. an also i know some smart a*s person's goin to come on here an yell an also b**tch at me but i dont really care.

    October 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. The Shrike

    They get paid millions for playing a game. Suck it up. More agony of defeat! Let's put random timed explosives in the ball! That will make it exciting!

    October 19, 2010 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. matt28

    They should do more to stop INTENTIONAL "devastating" head shots with an increase in the fine/suspension and if you don't think so then you definetly were dropped on your head at some point because you would have to be mentally handicapped to say otherwise. The only ones that are against it are the old timers and I got news for them 99% of the NFL alumni that played before 1980 in the NFL would get there hearts eat out by some of these guys now. The Dolphins undefeated team would all be in a coma if they played the Baltimore Ravens of today.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
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