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. HerAssMent

    Yep,lets puss up the game !!

    October 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Will

    If NFL players don't want to get hit, then DON'T PLAY. That simple.

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

    The game is finish oblamma has decided to set his sights on the players, its only a matter of time when powder puff games resume..:)

    October 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rpa094s

    The beauty of football is in the strategy, athleticism, the accuracy/innovativeness of the quaterback, the skill of the running back etc.. The hits are just plain ugly. Those who are saying that the hits are essential to the game have no idea what the game is about

    October 19, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKC


      October 19, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Glory-DAZE!

      Well said !! 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)!!
      It seems Today -
      Thre exists a Generation or more who have grown-up? playing Violent Video games frequently (most have probably Never played organized Football and Do Not really Know the Game) who seek "The HighLights" The top 10 hits, the Most-, The Best- BUT as for the GAME they are likely not too interested EXcept for the Violence – Just an old guys observation!

      October 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. kone

    IWelcome to the NFL's achilles heel – injuries. Nothing else can stop them.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. OriginalGW

    NFL..."what problem"

    "As scrutiny of brain injuries in football players has escalated in the past few years, with prominent professionals reporting cognitive problems and academic studies supporting a link more generally, the N.F.L. and its medical committee on concussions have steadfastly denied the existence of reliable data on the issue.

    But in September 2009, a study commissioned by the N.F.L. reported that Alzheimer's disease or similar memory-related diseases appear to have been diagnosed in the league's former players vastly more often than in the national population — including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49.


    October 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mario

    Let's see - dodging linebackers at the stadium for a few million $ a year or dodging bullets in Afghanistan for $40k a year-– Put things in perspective people.... NFL players are grown men, college graduates, and not blithering idiots - they know what the game is about and joined up anyways.... Leave it alone.

    To the moron that said something about getting rid of rules against clipping, etc.... YES! Those were stupid rules too. Football is violent. So what? That's why they get $300 a ticket. Romans, you say? I'd happily pay $300 to see a few baby r@pers fed to lions at Dolphin Stadium.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. shawn

    Why can't football player are not like soccer player and not wear HUGE HELMET to protect their head. We wanna see more violence. I want to see player on the ground with bleeding their heads off. That would fun to watch! I say football has military policy, DON'T ASK DON'T TELL."

    October 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeff

    Also, getting paid 5-20 million a year, they deserve to get hit good every so often to remind them of why they get so much money...

    October 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Earl Joseph Gaines

    It's football! I stop watching the NFL when they added all types of rules regarding "hitting the quarterback". Why don't you give them all flags and change the name from NFL to NFFL (National Flag Football League). More rules for hitting; get real!

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

      If you have stopped watching the game, why are your reading the article and commenting?

      October 19, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bravo

    There is no real strategy in football, it is just a brute force game, so if you take away the brute force you might as well make it two hand touch. Plus, football has been killing, maiming and paralyzing kids, adults, amateur and professional athletes for nearly a century. Who cares? The game and its violence keeps the mentally mediocre side of our population with something to do on a Sunday and Monday night, otherwise what would they do? Watch the Sarah Palin show?

    October 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mario

      LOL! It is you who is "mentally mediocre" if you think there's no strategy in football. Football is a chess game where all the pieces on both sides move at the same time. You think several plays ahead or you get your butt kicked. If you don't see its complexity, then perhaps you should stick to checkers. No, many of the players are not mental giants... but I bet the quarterbacks and coaches scored on the high side on their SATs.

      Sarah Palin? What does she have to do with any of this. Are you such a left wing moron that you can't keep politics out of a sports conversation. You think everyone likest football is a Republican? Hardly!

      October 19, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Drew

    The game is and always be a violent one. Very rarely do we cheer an injury (Philadelphia, I'm looking at you and remembering Michael Irvin.). As violent as the game is, the second you start suspending for "devastating" hits is the second you take away its image and its draw. Also, "devastating" hit... If a player catches the ball in mid air and is hit in the hip and his hip is dislocated, most would say that was a devastating hit as the player is no longer able to play for a while... and what about hits from the offensive side? Similar to the one of Brandon Jacobs "steamrolling" the defender, or Hines Ward "cheap shot" on a raven... will these too be included? Is it possible that with a pass happy league that more devastating hits are statistically more common but still less frequent?

    October 19, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. stubbycat

    Because football is a rough contact sport, does this mean that standards, rules and moral sense should be ignored? Suspend and fine big time (millions) the ones whose conduct shows intentional malice and intent to harm ...i.e. direct and vicious head-butting, for example, which has absolutely no place in sports.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. NFLFan

    Part of the reason I watch football religiously and not baseball or basketball is because it is a contact sport. I live for Saturdays and Sundays (sometimes Monday, if my team is playing) and countdown to preseason right after the Superbowl. That being said, there needs to be something done and this weekend just amplified the situation. To look at players of days past and see them in homes, not able to remember their loved ones names, is sad. People say "make the equipment better"-it's far superior to what it was in the past and it's just encouraging these players to hit harder. This game is no longer a contact sport, but a game where big hits make the ESPN top 10 plays. Now I love nothing more than watching my running back power through the D and to see his brute force at work, but to watch someone lead into a tackle with their helmet with that brute force is not fun. I know it takes a certain mentality to go out there and play and that the passion intensifies the game for these guys, but when you or someone else is going to go off that field in a stretcher, it's barbaric not sports-like.

    October 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |



    October 19, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • GasBag

      If they are suspended, they miss 1/16th of their salary for each game missed. Suspension results in the largest fines possible by keeping a paycheck per game.

      October 19, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
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