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. matt28

    The NFL should also not act like they havn't encouraged this type of life threatening hit. All they give a damn about is money and this is bad for PR they could car less about the players why the hell do you think they are wanting 2 more regular season games?? The only way they will be able to do that is if they allow the roster to go from 53 to 60 or higher and for them to dress out and be available not this crap were players are on the roster but inactive just so that player.

    October 19, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. shawnna

    Football is a rough game. Hockey is a rough game. These guys know what they're getting into. They get paid millions. Chances they're going to be seriously injured for life are slim. We all know that. What about the volunteer firefighter or the police officer getting paid almost nothing with inadiquate back up.....should i continue? Get over it and worry about the important things! I love football and if the rules get much softer yes they might as well put on dresses and play pat a cake or have a tea party. It is ridiculous...but we can b!+ch all we want it won't change a thing. It is what it is. Next sunday just sit back and relax with nachos and a beer and enjoy the game. And shut the eff up

    October 19, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mikeinrichmond

    Why don't we just have them play flag football already? Football is a rough, CONTACT game. Don't want to get hit, go play baseball.

    October 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Stosh

    this is stupid football is suppose to be played with hard hits thats what makes this a fantastic sport. if the players dont like how hard they"re getting hit then maybe they should either man up or leave

    October 19, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Robert

    When former footballl players' brains were examined at autopsy, 86% revealed CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), an extremely rare form of brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head and which leads to dementia, depression, movement disorders, suicide. The NFL is fully aware of this info. The NFL stated three years ago that it would suspend players for helmet to helmet hits. Not a single player has been suspended, not even after this weekend's series of serious injuries. Congress needs to step in and stop this madness!

    October 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Football

    It's FOOTBALL PEOPLE. Guess I'll have to resort to only watching College football. Go Badgers!

    October 19, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      A kinder, gentler football. Geez. Football is a brutal sport and these guys get paid MILLIONS to take the hits. I wish I could retire at 35 after playing a few years of... a game. We are already called pansies by the English because we wear equipment (referencing to rugby), but now... I tend to think they are right.

      October 20, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
    • jheron

      Do you also wish to die at the age of 45, or have cronic joint pain for the rest of your liife? Yeah they get paid millions...but unlike most other sports, they don't get to enjoy it for long.

      October 20, 2010 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • 808Football

      They might as well as make it flag football. Come on these guys get paid millions of dollars they know the risks. When you play football at that high of a level its a gamble you take.

      October 20, 2010 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      The issue is all the head to head contact that is unnecessary. Some times it's unavoidable. The hit on Zack Follett? He wasn't even in the play. He got double teams because of the stupid wedge formation, and leveled. They just needed to hold him, not hit him.

      October 20, 2010 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
    • darkangelx

      Lets just go play hello kitty adventure island too... oh wait I WANNA WATCH BIG HIT FOOTBALL

      October 20, 2010 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Don't make the BS rugby analogy. They don't get "hit" in rugby, they tackle. The tackler has just as much incentive not to slam into you with his head in rugby as you do not to get hit in the head. Also, the game of rugby is nearly always in front of the players, players aren't looking back for a ball to arrive only to turn up field to get nailed by a linebacker.
      That comparison is BS and even Australians I'm friends with from living over there don't make that argument.

      October 20, 2010 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Its the pads and helmets that MAKE these guys hurl themselves at each other like rocks. Without the pads you have to tackle more cautiously.

      October 20, 2010 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      You can watch "big hit football" without helmet to helmet contact.

      October 20, 2010 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Gene

      What is missing is a sense of respect for your fellow "workers". 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.

      October 20, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • POOKIE

      Football is a game as well as a profession. You have to be great to be noticed but to what extent? I love football but I think it is not good sportsmenship to make harsh plays that could damage the well being of players. Think about it, if you were up for trade and you had only one option togo to a team of which you had injured alot of it's player...Do you really think they would want to play with you? You can make a great tackle and not seriously injure a person.. These men have family to provide for.......they should be able to play without having to worry if the nest day on the field will be the last dad they will be able to walk.

      October 22, 2010 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Herman Edwards

    Who cares if these animals get hurt? YOU PLAY-TO-WIN...THE GAME! One of the "victims" (Joshua Cribbs) was well known drug dealer whose collegetown let him get away with it, this is a league that allows rapists (Big Ben), murderers (Ray Lewis), crackheads, fornicators, a guy who kicked down a girls door, ran in her dorm, dropped a load off in her hamper and ran out the door (Najeh Davenport). Who cares if they end up brain dead?

    October 19, 2010 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trevor, Austin, TX

      The NFL cares and fans care. Obviously you don't care, so don't comment.

      October 19, 2010 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. joseph cecil smith

    it's hard to face how profoundly our players are getting injured... that is the ONLY THING THAT MATTERS HERE... minor hits are actually causing deep brain injuries.. we have to face the truth that this game really hurts the brain tissues... there may not be much remedy for some levels of minor brain affects.. but maybe we can civilize a sports game and play with each other without killing each other... or really harming our co-players... it may be impossible to reign in the strong young players, maybe raise up the moral standards and raise the game up a notch, really public effort to raise and vocalize new standards that might prevent some/many of these brains injuries we are seeing in players across the gamut of hard impact sports

    October 19, 2010 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ray

    There is an easy solution to this: Play without helmets. Players will no longer lead with their heads. Perhaps they'll even start tackling again rather than launching themselves at one another. You have to admit, the helmet gives an aura of invincibility. Obviously it isn't the case.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brandon

    I think all these new rules to regin in the so called violence of football is a load of *&!@, when I grew up playing football from grades 4 thru 10 hitting sombody and either knocking them out cold or hurtting them was taught to us, no its what we dreamed of doing. We were shown how to protect our heads and necks; I believe that this is because pros are worried that they will not get their money or its the hippie non-violent liberals trying to ruin one of our best sports.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ray

      hippy non-violent liberals huh...yeah, that's bright.

      October 19, 2010 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      Funny... I played in middle school and high school, and we were taught to form tackle. Avoid head to head contact. We were taught to play a game, we were taught that if you have to hurt some one to win a game, you don't deserve to play. Your coach should have been fired if that was his mentality.

      October 20, 2010 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Throwing yourself head first at someone is not the way football was intended to be played. Look at any sport like rugby that has no pads or helmets and you will NEVER see someone throw themselves head first at someone and the game is always moving in front of the ball carrier.

      October 20, 2010 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. athletic trainer

    as an athletic trainer, I have to say these comments r disturbing and ignorant. no one is trying to limit tackles or take the violence out of football, but it can be done in a much more effective way. there are many more c-spine injuries than the media publicizes and they can all be prevented with proper equipment fitting and proper tackling technique. its up to officials and medical professionals to step in and regulate the recklessness that these players are exhibiting so that u don't have any more unnecesary catastrophes

    October 19, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      Finally... Someone with more than 2 brain cells and a cable hook up... Thanks

      October 20, 2010 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Levi

      Yea, poster seems real bright, umm, except for not knowing that the first letter of a sentence is capitalized...

      October 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Art

    Bigger, faster, stronger, juiced, world class size and speed training, helmets designed as weapons. Do you see a car after it’s been in a crash? Dents, scratches, collapsible panels, air bags. Do you see a helmet after these Sunday collisions? No hits, no runs, no errors, no dents; a suite of armor for your head, but as we know the brain keeps moving and crashes into the skull. The NFL is reaping what they sow and the game is now laughable. Can’t hit the QB ladies below the waste or above the shoulders, fine, take off their uniforms and give them a flag-football belt. Better yet, the NFL should transition to what it now is, a flag-football league. I’m not advocating injury by unnecessary violence, but what did they expect? Weekly efforts to prevent injuries, endless on-field controls to control the uncontrollable, and countless flags for “he touched me penalties”. A four-plus hour game in the 70’s was enjoyable to sit through; a three hour game today is more painful for the fan than it is the players.

    October 19, 2010 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Scott

    The NFL is becoming a disgrace. Drugs, violence, and money. America use to be better than this.

    October 20, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
  14. Colin

    Actually at the college level they already have more restrictions regarding head hits/violence.

    I disagree with your statement and others in regards to unrestricted violence... there should be rules to minimize flagrant violence that could turn someone into a vegetable.

    They are not animals, they are human too. I doubt half of you would be the macho man you pretend to be if it were your kid who got hit like that. Yeah, I'm gonna say BS on the macho innuendo you guys spout.

    October 20, 2010 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. Matt

    “Devastating question: your suspended!” Hahahah, he made a valid point!

    October 20, 2010 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
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