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. football fan

    So what does the NFL want to do, pay these players millions of dollars to play flag football. It's a mans game, let them play Goodell.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tracy Omaha

    That's it, take the pads and given flags.

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

    The Wrestling Ball

    October 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. JM

    Football is rough and their will always be injuries. But to go above and beyond and intentionally use a helmet to injure another player, that's a criminal act from a criminal mind.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. What's to blame?

    There's nothing here to blame but over zealous players playing a particularly violent sport. I've been watching it for years, played the game and loved it when I was playing. But if you're smashing your head into goal posts, other guys, helmets, THE GROUND, someone's gonna get hurt. There is nothing to blame here, no one to blame. The risks have not changed since the league replaced leather helmets with metal and then plastic. Neck's bend awkwardly in those things, arms and legs are at risk of being snapped off at the joint in dog-pile tackles. Anyone remember Joe Thiesman of the Red Skins? * S N A P * Right at the knee. I heard the sound of the break 3,000 miles away. If a guy gets bent backward far enough and we will watch his life leak out onto the field right before our eyes. I love the sport, but I'd be willing to do without if someone's son or father could be spared the crippling effects of permanent disability or death. No sport is worth that.

    There are guy you could get rid of. Ronny Lott was famous for wanting to “put a permanent hurtin’” on the Falcons. He hated Atlanta, the cities fans, and most of all it’s players. To this day I don’t know why, but there are thousands of feet of old news footage of Lott getting so worked up over how much bird meat he was going to eat that I swear, I worried that he was going to have an stroke right there on camera. Frankly, I’m glad he’s gone. I still don’t believe that guy was above putting a bullet in any Atlantan for simply living here.

    Maybe if you get rid of the Ronny Lott’s (more like Salem’s Lot) of the world, the game could go on. In the end however, I don’t really believe that. Football is the NASCAR of the ground to foot sports world. People line up to watch one fly over the fence, crash into the stands and then become set a blaze, burning fans and players alike. There ain’t much better in football like an aging Woody Hayes and some dopy athlete loping his way back to the huddle when all of a sudden WHAM! There’s suddenly a whole lot of coaches fist occupying your helmet where your head used to be!

    Fans are rabid over it and American’s won’t live without it. So it looks like the Wicked Witch of the Ronny Lott wins after all. Dorothy will be boiled and fed to the Lott’s flying monkeys and all of her body guards will have their spines pulled out and necks broken for their defiance of the Lott. Next month look for the paperback serial Lord of the Lotts, and a bonus publication; A whole Lotts of Hurtin Goin On.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bleed on

    Ya know, it's very expensive to go watch a football game. Those players are all millionaires. Some of us fans are poor common folk. I say, let them do all the damage they want to each other. Let us get our monies worth. I want to see blood and broken limbs and concussions. Yeah baby, that's what it's all about.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BigC

    Bottom line…the players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever before. So, the hits that did not hurt anyone a decade ago are devastating today.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grant

      Aren't the players being hit also larger and able to absorb more punishment?

      October 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. steelerbill

    football is about pain and imtimidation, you want them to be afraid of you. the girl complaining about the steelers hitting too hard, give me a break, there is no such thing as too hard.if you dont like it , dont play and dont watch.

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


    October 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mary

    I love football and I don't mind watching a bunch of sweaty men roughing each other up on the field, but I also believe in playing fair. When you deliberately head but someone because you want to win so bad, then I have to say that they should get what they deserve as far as punishment is concerned.!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Big Norm

    I hope the NFL has a CLEAR definition of "devastating hit". Who will decide which hits are "devastating"? I understand the league cracking down on headshots but this will won't really change things for the better. Expect a huge and needless increase in fines and suspensions from league officials taking this too far because they have the power to. Once again the league will overkill the hits(not the headshots). QBs, get ready to face a fine everytime you yell HUT HUT!!!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dennis Reilly

    Take away the helmets. A guy wearing a leather type helmet, he won't try and smake his head other. Take the equipment OFF.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Micah

    Why is CNN linking to a youtube video that presents copyrighted footage without the permission of its owners?

    October 19, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKC

      How do you know they didn't get permission? There is nothing in the law that requires them to tell you. If they do, it is because the owner of the material requires you to tell before they give you permission. Because you do not know copyright law, you have just opened your mouth and inserted your foot.

      October 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Raphael

    Change the game by letting the cheerleaders play with the guys. I guarantee you they will change the way the tackle occurs!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Earl Joseph Gaines

    Back in the day, Oakland Raiders safety, Jack Tatum (may he R.I.P.) was known as the "Assassin". Why? Because of his "hits". He regretted the hit that paralyzed Darryl Stingley (may he R.I.P.). Jack Tatum was never the same after that hit. I don't thank hitters like Jack Tatum or the great hitters of today want to harm anyone; it's just football. Knocking a player out of the game is football. The intention is not to hurt anyone; the technology, money, commericials and control freaks have already done that!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • AKC

      But you have a top player say that he wants to hurt other players – injure other players. You know he is not the only player who wants to hurt other players. Hit them hard. Hit them very hard. But don't intend to hurt them. Leading with your helmet poses a serious risk to the other player (and you are stupid, because it poses a serious risk to yourself).

      October 19, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
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