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. jonathan saint

    that's what the game is about....violence...so what if some people get injured and paralyzed...we pay a lot of money to watch the games so we should get our money's worth..

    October 19, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Its about violence to you. Its about skill, playmaking, coolness under fire and athleticism to me.

      October 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glory-DAZE!

      Well said Jim! Any man (young man to us ByGones) who has played Football will confirm that this IS a 'team Game' with a collection of One-on-One battles, where each player strives to dominate his opponent (W/I the Rules) and work with the Team plans and efforts to achieve a Victory. Those players And (so called) Fans who who desire a Level of Violence where the Intent! is to Injure another Man in the game are Not Real (Men) sportsMen or 'Fans of the Game)!!

      October 19, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Peter

    Keep the present rules just simply remove the equipment; or at least reduce it. The players today have no fear of being harmed due to the quality, and devlopment, of today protective equipment. If some feel this will lead to more incidents than just look at rugby, a more agressive game played with little or no equipment.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. DCLaw-1

    Lets face reality. Despite the hundreds-of-millions the NFL puts into marketing football (a luxury it has afforded itself by not bothering with developing a minor league system), it is a boring game – especially live (that is why the NFL has such an issue with drunks, the sober fall asleep or get restless leg syndrome). All the slow motion action video shown over gladiator music cannot change the facts. In the three hours it takes to play sixty minutes off the clock, there is, on average, ten minutes of actual play counting the time from the snap to the whistle. The hits are all that make it watchable.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • mtw220


      October 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCLaw-1

      mtw220, how about disputing the facts and say why I am wrong?

      October 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. basconi

    People being criticallly injured for the sake of inflated egos in a game. Not. I say a game ejection and suspension is in order.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCLaw-1

      Are you female??

      October 19, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCLaw-1

      ....just curious because....welll...because.....

      October 19, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKC

      DCLaw-1 – are you a neanderthal? I am a woman. I grew up watching football (small town Okie – not much else to do on a Sunday afternoon). I love football. I hold my own with any man watching football. I love seeing a hard hit put on a player. But things change. If you don't like change, then you need to get rid of your HD TV, get an old-fashion antenna, and watch your tv football. You need to get off your butt during halftime, miss the highlights of the other games, and go outside with your friends and play some tackle football. Not all change is bad.

      October 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David

    For God's sake, get your panties of a knot. This is a violent game. They know this. They get paid accordingly. If I wanted to watch a bunch of dudes throwing flowers at each other, i'd watch golf, or tennis. Nothing against golf and tennis fans, your sport requires a different kind of skill.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve

    Did the Romans take the tigers out of the Colosseum when the clawing got dangerous. NO! Did we give up when the Germans bombed Perl Harbor .NO!

    October 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JSP

      Talk about the stupidest, short-sighted, analogies ever. Comparing WWII to NFL rules? Get a clue.

      October 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Are you an idiot? YES! Germans didnt bomb pearl harbor and you might want to read up on who were fighting the tigers...Come up with something more real this this BS...Football is a game....DA

      October 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crawfish

      Hilarious. for us who got it.

      October 19, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guinness

      Oh my, there are actually some who haven't seen Animal House and are tone deaf to satire.

      October 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank Pendleton

      It was the chinese you munch......

      October 19, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Audrey

      Classic! Loved the "nod" to Animal House. Genius. For those that did not get it or have no sense of humor, I feel really bad for you. Don't take yourself so seriously!

      October 19, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pablo

      You guys missed the point. Steve was doing a very loose interpretation of a Animal House movie quote.....

      October 19, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jerry

    Back in the 70's when I played HS football the helments didn't even compare with the ones today. People got knocked out or had their bells rung everyday. The coaches would just drag them aside and give them smelling salts and put them right back in. I got knocked out in a game my senior yr. and had no recllection of anything for 3 quarters. I came around in the 4th Q on the bench with our team Dr. holding smelling salts in my face. I went back inthe game!! The coaches never mentioned it to me after the game or Monday and I practiced as usual. A few Mo. later I had a grand mal seizure.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim

    In the end no one is forcing these men to play. It's a free country. They could all leave the NFL tomorrow if they so wished. At least they are being well compensated for the risks they take and the injuries they receive. Think of all our maimed and injured soldiers. Many have been paralyzed, lost limbs and been grotesquely disfigured. Are they coming home to a multi-million dollar contract?

    October 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Aaron

    They freak out all of the time in the NHL from headshots, what makes the nfl so different?

    October 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • DCLaw-1

      In the words of Don Shyuler (in response to public whining by then Dolphins LB Brian Cox): The average football player would not last ten seconds in the NHL.

      October 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Person

    Hah...wow...look at all the redneck neanderthals in the comments.
    "hurpa derp, don't care if they're hurt, i want my entertainments!"

    October 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dimagio

    Must be nice to not miss $10k-15k. For a hit. Must be worth it to that beast.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. steve505

    I have a solution: Replace all these over-paid jocks with prison inmates, and take away all pads and protective gear. It will be far more entertaining to watch, and who's gonna care if they get hurt?

    October 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Matt

    The game has gotten way out of control. Its not about playing ball, its about powerlifting men taking other powerlifting players out. James Harrison said it when he said he's there to hurt ppl. Mr. Harrison, you are not there to hurt anybody, you are there to play a game. If you are hurting people, you are not playing a game.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • mtw220

      I would have said the samething. If I'm a DB, I'm letting you know, don't come in my area of play or you will pay. This means a legal hit as hard as I can. The idea is to make drop the ball or possible fumble. It's part of the game. If DB back have start thinking before a collision, then the NFL might as well call it a day.

      October 19, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • ForTheLulz

      @mtw220 seriously right? I mean how dare we ask players to do minimal thinking. What do we think football players are, elementary school graduates?

      October 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JSP

    Anyone that truly knows football, knows that the game does not require helmet-to-helmet hits. I'm all for the tough and gritty contact sport of football, but helmet-to-helmet has the potential to PARALYZE. And that is where the line ought to be drawn.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. mtw220

    Leading with the forarm and helment I'll go along with that. But lunging into a reciever or running back, give me a break. This is football. These players know what the signed up for. Playing football is a tough sport. Once we turn that TV, most don't have an idea what a NFL players goes through to get ready for the next game. Players should be paid greatly as well as the best medical plan for now and after football.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
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