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. yahwehufos

    take the fun outa football and were all fu@$ed

    October 19, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • John N Florida

      Just how many 'chuckles do you get out of seeing a guy on a back board leaving the field. If that's what it takes for you to have a good time, you're already f#$@d up.

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

      John N Florida I dont get any chuckles. Its entertainment. What are we going to do next, put pick fluffy gloves on when boxing?

      October 19, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • yahwehufos

      ops I meant pink fluffy gloves

      October 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. GasBag

    Take the crashes out of NASCAR too and see what it does for that sport's popularity.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • John N Florida

      They took the Stock Cars out; why not take the crashes out?

      October 19, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John N Florida

    Take away the darn plastic helmets. If a guy is wearing a leather helmet, he won't try and stick his head through the other guy's back bone.
    Dad suggested this years ago. He played semi-pro ball after high school. I trust his judgment.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kevin

    Helmets do a great job of protecting the face and skull, but do nothing to protect the brain from sloshing around and bouncing inside your head. When a player lowers his head to hit another player with the crown of his helmet, he not only is risking the safety of the other player, he's risking snapping his own neck in the process. Not to mention as soon as you lower your head you lose sight of the person your trying to tackle. Barry Sanders made his career making guys miss him.
    If no one had been watching him, he would have averaged at least 50+ yards more per game.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. natalie

    Why don't they just get it over with and have them parade around in tutus singing show tunes?

    October 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dan

    Cry babies. Ruggers run faster and hit harder and the only ones that wear a helmet are the ones who have had their brains rattled and even those are just leather covers. Football players big dumb wussies, who are about to stroke out.

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

      Figure out the rules of rugby and why they have rules in place to do everything to insure that those players without helmets do not get hit in the head.

      October 19, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. josey

    For all the people who think its okay that players are being injured for life losing everything they have because they can't play any more due to the take them out of the game mentality. With no helmet I hit you in the head with a hammer and show it on TV. Ratings will be hugh.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. agavemike

    Soon it will be just as boring as baseball.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mario

    Look what happened to hockey after they outlawed fighting. I quit watching... so did everyone I know.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Grant

    Can we go ahead and start calling football "Tennis"?
    It is a violent game and it is supposed to be that way. We already coddle the QBs by not allowing the defense to intimidate the QB by knocking him on his butt...hard and repeatedly. What's next? Are the professionals going to be paid millions of dollars to run around with flags on their waist so they don't get hurt? Don't want to get hurt, don't play. If they want it to be a grammar school version of football, the players should be paid at the same level. Otherwise, stop whining and man-up!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mn

    let the men be men and the rest of you wimps watch andy griffith marathons

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

    anybody ready to watch millionaires play flag football.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • OKx3

      Ya beat me to it alex. They'd still cheat though. Just like in high school when the jocks would wrap the flags around their belts several times so that even if you got your hands on it, they would drag you into the end zone.

      Maybe flags would reduce juicing as well.

      October 19, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Josh

    Yes football is a contact sport, but these guys know the rules. No helmet to helmet contact. I like to see the hard hits, but I also like to see the players get up and trash talk or help each other up. Not cool to see two guys limp on the field when the next play could be in motion.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. MWI

    Reasoning that football is a contact or collision sport and we should just let them play is disingenuous. By that logic, we should allow boxers to hit below the belt, basketball players to violently foul opposing players, hockey players to high-stick, etc, etc.....

    Most sports have safety rules in place for a reason. Football should be no exception.

    I say this as someone who likes to see good hits, just not CHEAP hits!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dan

    The NFL and NCAA have to be strict against helmet-to-helmet hits. Injuries are a part of a football, but serious brain and spine injuries can be reduced.
    Though, the NFL's crackdown on "excessive celebration" is going too far. It's almost as bad as the NCAA now. If a player goes to the ground in celebration, it's penalty now. There's no need for excessive celebration penalties, unless a team is taunting and physically pushing their opponents after a big play.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
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