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. morgans

    Go play for the Lingerie Football league if you don't wanna get hit!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. saywhat

    Lot of thought here...some old arguments follow...Autos banned..Eating fast food..military shut down(too many injuries)..thats out of context but the theory is the same..football is a game of many facets..its not so much the violent hits that attract but identifying one with a team and players..we all love our favorite things..football happens to be a favorite of all..gender..age..yes money making(free enterprise) enjoyment for millions..if you think you can change human behavior think again...football is Americas game..thank goodness we have it

    October 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. morgans

    There are hard hits in the Lingerie Football League AND their uniforms are way better. You don't hear them crying and whining.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rick

    @Deva Dwarka

    You are so far removed from what this sport is all about its pathetic! Most of you complaining don’t have a clue what the sport is or why guys like Harrison play hard like he does. You cry about another player not being able to defend himself? Are you fricking kidding me? Try watching the game for a change. Once a guy catches a ball he’s an open target. That’s how this game is played and what it’s about.

    A player can’t always assume what another players going to do, or if they turn their position or lower their head which can and will cause head collisions. I guess you pansies out there want to see the NFL become flag football. Because with all the bickering I’m hearing that’s what it will turn into if you all keep panzifing the game. These are all grown mean they all know the risk of playing. Let the men play the game and you kiddies just shut up and leave well enough alone.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Alix

    Well that is why this idiotic sport is not played in the rest of the world...fat people hitting fat people for millions of dollars and stupid men admiring the game from their lazyboy drinking bear.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mikedog1969

    This is another reason to vote against the democrats and Obama.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joe

    As if the players are not fully aware of the dangers. But then again its the couch potato's getting overly emotional over this. But what do you expect the media pulls at your heartstrings distracting you from the REAL ISSUES! I can tell you head hitting in the NFL is not one of the REAL issues! But then again its why NFL players get paid the big bucks, its so much more dangerous than our men and women making chump change living years on end in a combat zone!! But by all means watch your sports.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grant

      They volunteered. Go back to playing Halo or something.

      October 19, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. windu

    The Todd Heap hit was not head-to-head as reported in the article. Try watching the video you linked to.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jon

    The agreement that the NFL has with its fans is you will see a good show. The agreement with the NFL and the Players – is you trade your body for a ridiculous amount of cash. No one is forcing anyone to play football. Permanent and debilitating injury is the risk that you take. Hitting harder than the other guy is part of the game.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jean Cooper

    Just trying to protect morons from their own stupidity.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bailoutsos

    Make it the: NFFL. National Flag Football League.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • mycatsbreathsmellslikecatfood

      it's hard to have sympathy sometimes when they are paid millions of dollars a year...

      October 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • AGeek

      Absolutely, positively correct. You want the big bucks? You think you *earn* those? Ha! Put on your big girl panties and hit the field; you candy-@$$, overpaid buffoons.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shawn

      You've got to be kidding me. You mean to tell me that only after Rodney Harrison spoke about vicious hits did the 'head office' realize that fines were not a deterrent? They must live under a rock not to realize what most Sunday afternoon fans already know – That you have select defensive players out on the field on Sunday afternoons who are literally looking to maim or kill someone – a right of passage so to speak. It's high time to get serious on these types of players so that players in college, high school, and Pop Warner know that it's not OK to play with that type of mentality.

      October 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • MojoPermian

      The underlying problem at all levels 9 year olds to 30 year olds is the belief that the head is a battering ram. "Putting your nose on their number" is still taught everywhere. Increased helmet technology designed to protect actually leads to a belief of invincibility and harder hits with the head. Take the helmet out of the game and you end up with broken collar bones and bad shoulders like rugby. Alot better than brain injuries and paralysis.

      October 19, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      This is like taking an engine out of a car, whats the point? They know the risks involved in a full contact sport and they get paid millions to do it. Suck it up!

      October 19, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really?

      You guys say "suck it up", but you aren't the ones out there getting concussions or worse. I understand hits are a part of the game, but hitting a defenseless player, I consider a cheap shot which should be penalized with suspensions. Fining players doesn't do crap. They make millions a year, fining them 10 grand is like fining someone with a normal salary 20 bucks. Suspensions need to be handed out, then people will start getting the message.

      October 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hit_Em_Hard

      These are the saddest discussions to come out of Football for as long as I can remember!!
      Soccer players are going to get bruised as much or more if this insanity continues....
      why don't they start playing TENNIS!! or are they afraid of being hit by the little green ball??

      October 19, 2010 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt


      Don't know what you are talking about, no coach teaches to lead with the helmet. Put your nose to the numbers is actually tackling with your head up, not down. If your nose is touching the numbers, then you must be looking forward and be squared to your opponent. That kind of tackle will not cause head trauma. Still most coaches teach the head to go to the side of the player and the shoulder into the mid section. That is better tackling because it keeps the head out of the body and into the football, causing fumbles. Either way though, no coaches I know of (and I'm a coach myself) teach a player to lead with their head.

      October 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. InternetApe

    If these people are afraid to get hurt they shouldnt play the game. No one WANTS to see someone get hurt but it is a high contact sport. NFL is going to turn into tag football.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris Burns

      Apparently, James Harrison DOES want to see people hurt.

      October 19, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leigh

      There is a difference between playing a game tough and intentionally trying to severely injure another person, as was definitely the case in the Eagle's game. These players make the money because they makes so much money for the owners and advertisers. Fans pay for the tickets and the merchandise – if you could make millions as a pro athlete, you would, but guess what? Very few have the talent, which is another reason for the high paycheck. To not have sympathy for someone because of his income is just sad. The league needs to do something about this – the violence takes away from the game and puts to many at risk.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • PaPop

      @ Leigh. If you think that the hit on Desean Jackson was flagrant then you didnt now watch the replay. That play shouldn't have even been called a penalty. Desean Jackson made a play for the ball...he was not defenseless, Dunta Robinson did not leave his feet, he made contact with his shoulder to Jackson's chest. Watch the video. A powerful football hit. Plain and simple.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • EMB

      It's not that they players are afraid of getting hurt. I think the owners and the league are afraid of the liability, and afraid of the game becoming so violent or dangerous that people stop watching (paying). Granted, thats a long way off. And how many hits are we really talking about? Helmet to helmet: bad. Helmet to chest: clean. Guys are going to get knocked down; they just shouldn't get paralyzed or decapitated.

      October 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. morgans

    Go Phillies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • brad lastings

      go fightins!

      October 19, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • dave

      Go Giants! Phillies suck!

      October 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • hurtme

      Go (my team)!!! (Your team) sucks!!

      October 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • brad lastings

      using your logic, if the Phillies suck and they are up 2 – 1 on the Giants then the Giants must suck worse. so yeah, the Phillies suck! Go Phillies!

      October 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      uh, Brad, it's 1-1, not 2-1.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • NebraskaCub

      Go Cubs!...oh wait nevermind....

      October 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ummmm

      excuse me but the giants won today the series is at 2-1 giants thank you very much

      October 19, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ellen

    Flagrant, deliberate blows should not be tolerated, but what is more astonishing to me is that they allowed Todd Heap to go back in the game!! The coaches should be suspended for being idiots.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • M. Winkler

      Where was the NFL when Mike Webster was left homeless due to his NFL injuries?

      October 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JLS

    My Comments are directed to Mike Golic from Mike in the morning who was on the air crying like a girl this morning Listen I've been watching football for over 40 years and this and from the couch I can see that "problem" only seems to exist "at this frequency" at the NFL level... Why is that? What is about the NFL that encourages pack mentality of monkey see, monkey doo? The guys in the NFL have played organized football for the bulk of their lives and they have succeeded without this “head hunter” mentality. The NFL should be applauded for keeping their sport clean... Not only are these "modern day players" unable to control themselves personally but they don't even respect the game that gave them their monster egos & monster salaries.... There has been a specific mentality that has crept into the NFL over the past 10 – 12 years… maybe the league should think about that… as I am sure there is a common fabric.

    Any moron can look at some of these "head related" hits & see what their intention is. All of you ex & current NFL players; get off of your emotional toilets and get a clue. Way to go NFL!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • brad lastings

      two things:
      1. i don't think the NFL cares about monkey doo.
      2. i don't think Mike Golic reads your comments.

      October 19, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike Golic

      I do read all you comments. I always have and always will. Keep em coming.

      October 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
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