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. LinMal

    Rugby players don't have as many injuries... much safer. If you're not wearing a helmet, you are not going to hit someone else with your head.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKC

      Be careful of your analysis. Playing without helmets would not truly solve the problem. It has to be more extreme. Rugby has extreme rules that prevent hitting the head. You do not tackle in rugby above the shoulders. If you do, you are ejected, period. And your team plays with one less man. And that is what the NFL is trying to figure out. Creating an environment where the game is still played, but with the likelihood of career ending injuries occurring. Not going to do without helmets in football – part of what makes football football and not rugby. Put steeper penalties may give an incentive to play the game clean (btw, people, players will still get hit and will still get hurt. The blow to Theisman would be legal under these new rules, and his leg would still have been snapped).

      October 19, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. poodle

    they need to redesign helmet padding imo. don't change the game, improve the equipment. maybe wrap ace bandages around their head under their helmet or some other type of padded gizmo to wrap their head in under their helment for extra cushion.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Shane

    Maybe stop hiring would be crimminals?.....nah....money money drool drool sell stuff money.....

    October 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Russ

    There's an easy way around this. Just send the low-paid taxi squad types out there to headhunt. There's no TEAM penalty for these kind of hits. If some 12th rounder on the developmental squad gets suspended, who cares? But if they knock one of the other team's stars out of the game/season on their way out, mission accomplished, at low cost.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. AnnaN

    Wow, so many misogynist fans.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    Hey Mr. Butkus, what do you think?

    October 19, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hard Core fan

    Violence is part of the game. However, when players must replace skill with violence then you are not playing the game! Sports is about skill don't forget that.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jeff

    Small issue with the NFL thought process... The cat is already out of the bag. You know they did not have these head & neck issues back in the early days of the game because folks did not have the helmets they have today. They played with leather "Helmets" thus they did not lead with thier heads as much. Maybe if the NFL did away with Riddell helmets the defensive players would learn how to tackle with thier arms and not keep leading with the head. Also I recall back in the late 70's eary 80's some players started wearing neck braces ( Wilber Marshall, Steve Grogan ) why do they not wear them anymore? With players getting bigger and stronger either the gear needs to be better or hitting techniques need adjusting on both sides of the ball.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Chaz

    Goodell is jumping the gun on this. The helmet to helmet hits need to lessen. I agree that seeing the major injuries isnt what the sport is about, but big hits are just part of the game. Tell me how someone running a route into zone coverage expects to get hit. How do you expect guys to tackle without leading with their head? start drop kicking people? Oh i know, aim at their knees so guys are out the rest of the season instead of just 1 or 2 games! These guys have played the game their entire lives. They know what is at stake every time they take the field. They are putting their bodies and minds on the line to represent a city and put on a show for you. Let them determine the way they want to play. The majority of them like it just the way it is because it is what they grew up with. It is FOOTBALL!!

    October 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bob

    The objective to football is to tackle, block, run and pass....NOT to hit, or inflict injury. When your kid ends up in a wheel chair, brain dead, or just dead...don't, then, whine about the hit that caused it.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Easy

    The easy solution is take away the pads(shoulder, thigh, hip, etc) keeping only the helmets.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. cole

    if you look at all the hits this weekend. only one was the most blatant helmet to helmet and it resulted in the least damage. most of the hits were delivered with a shoulder not a helmet. the nfl is going to wuss its way into nonsense

    October 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. old_phone_user

    see this hi!!!!t!!


    October 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mickey

    the nfl is so serious about it that they are going to stop selling all those "Biggest Hits in the NFL" DVDs?

    lol. yeah right.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dj

    This is just sad.. if they allowed the players to bring their guns from the locker onto the field this would all get sorted out pretty quick.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
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