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."

Post by:
Filed under: Pro football • Sports • U.S.
soundoff (406 Responses)
  1. Chaosevil

    I say get rid of the helmets! Let them kill each other.

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

      "I say get rid of the helmets! Let them kill each other."

      Strangely enough that'd probably make it safer. Rugby is statistically safer than football despite having less protection. Without a helmet you're not going to use your head as a weapon.

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

      That's a real man's sport ..it's called Rugby. But not just no helmets – no pads, either. They don't whine and cry, nor do they make piles of cash. Like I said, a sport for *real* men.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • MojoPermian

      If they got rid of helmets there would initially be a rash of injuries because players still played the same but without the helmet. Eventually they would quit using their head. If you have played both sports, American football is significantly more violent than rugby for two simple reasons. Contact off the ball in rugby is not not allowed (there is no blocking off the ball–crack backs specifically) and the ball is not played downfield, it is played laterally for the most part. These two differences limit the high velocity impacts that exist in American football. Rugby, however, is a grueling sport for its continuous play combined with a decent amount of contact and grappling. Hard to compare the two. Both very hard sports, but alot different in high velocity impacts.

      October 19, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • KAS

      If you didn't already know, football started out with no pads whatsoever, but they added them in after they realized how dangerous it was. And, in Rugby, they don't usually tackle as hard as they do in football. Rugby is a slow enough moving sport so that you have the time to wrap-up your opponent instead of having to run full steam into them.

      October 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CDC

    They already review the Sunday hits on Monday morning and hand out fines for hits they deem "excessive"... and we're ok with that.

    I don't think the NFL will do anything different except for add suspensions to those fines.

    There will still be good, hard, LEGAL hits. The NFL knows that's their bread and butter.

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

      To protect players from violent injuries especially head injuries, they need to adopt a policy of no hitting above the shoulder pads. You can still have hard hits without someone being paralyzed. Someones future of life could depend on this ruling.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • theresnoairinspace

      let's just allow throw down fights like in hockey

      October 19, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • CDC

      Everybody here needs to come down from the ledge and wait to hear the announcement. MAYBE nothing will change except the punishment options the league has for the OBVIOUS illegal hits. I'd be ok with that.

      We all love a good hit, but nobody wants to see a carreer ended over a late hit or a spear to the head.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Q1

    Being that most of these hits come from defensive backs, who by and large, are the biggest wimps out there, and are perpetually waiting for the opportunity of receivers being blind to be loaded up on, let receivers again have the option of crack-back blocking on them alone so that those DB's will no longer think that they have impunity to make themselves look big. It's very interesting when a DB has to face a run from a FB who can see him comming and enjoys that prospect of eating those gutless babies.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Nonwuss

    Those of you who can't understand the violence of football, never played, or never got off the bench. It's a man's sport, for men. If you can't handle the violence, turn the channel to something intended for you, like homeshopping for lingerie. The only thing cowardly about a hit is when someone ducks, falls down to avoid it, or whines about it later because, "He hurt me on purpose!"
    No one is forced to play. The violence is what makes it fun to play, as well as watch. Again, not a sport for girls or wannabees.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Football Grrrl

      Obviously you have never seen women play football. Or roller derby, or rugby, or any number of full contact sports.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • carolyn

      Lordy...glad I don't even KNOW you, let alone have an intimate relationship with you. You walking-blocks-of-testosterone men are pathetic. I sure as hell wouldn't want my kid, even a grown one, taking those kinds of hits. brain concussions can affect you forever...and you only play football a few years. Macho is way over-rated. In my eyes, you're just buffoons.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nomorecrying

      Carolyn your an idiot, if you don't want the hard hitting violence then don't let your precious baby play. You know what you're getting into when you play this sport and you know the risks. If you can't take it don't play. Very simple

      October 19, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • HelenaHandbasket

      Oh, nonwuss, you sound like such a man's man. And we women just love a guy who gives everything he has on the field of battle. Why aren't the men I date more of a brute like you?
      Most likely because they pack an extra 40 IQ points and haven't suffered as many severe hits to the head as you have, loser.

      October 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. vipul desai

    The idea that without helmet-to-helmet spearing hits, football becomes "touch football" is preposterous. There is something called tackling. Tackle as hard as you want. Don't lead with helmet . Suspensions are needed for such hits.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • FlyingFish

      How can a ball carrier run without leading with his helmet??? You cant just make it a defensive penalty...

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

      Of course, you cannot have a rule that "your helmet can't touch anyone." But there are levels of hits. Flagrant helmet-to-helmet hits, esp. when the other guy is in defenseless situation, should have mandatory ejections. Actually, NFL already has a rule like that, the just don't enforce it (by only giving minor fines). There are always going to be cases that are borderline, but that does not mean that you must allow everything. Draw the line, even if it is blurry.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • HelenaHandbasket

      Well said, vipul, in both of these posts. It's good to see at least one guy on here who's playing with more than half a brain.

      October 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Petra

    I think that nothing will change until you punish the teams, as they are not doing anything to prevent players for hitting the helmet. Take points from teams and you will see a big change in helmet to helmet hit.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. k

    Americans don't even agree what American Football is about, that should be the point of this ariticle. Individualistic morons...

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

      So we're morons because we think like individuals?

      October 19, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. FlyingFish

    Are they going to penalize running backs for lowering their head when running with the ball? This will be impossible to objectively enforce. The only thing the NFL is going to succeed at with this is going sissy like NASCAR did. They turned it into a "yawn" P.C. hug and feel good Care Bear beauty pageant, and a LOT of people lost interest.

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

      As a general rule, the running back doesn't load up on a vulnerable target. Nobody stands up a defender so the ball carrier can take him out. Having said that and having played football, we were always taught NOT to lower our heads when running the ball – you can't react to what you can't see.

      October 19, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Brian

    This is like the Liberal Strategy for America

    October 19, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Adrian Zupp

    In a related story, the UFC is trying to figure out how to make their sport more violent. 🙂

    I invite you to take a look at my blog post on PRO SPORTS:


    Take care,
    Adrian Zupp (former rugby player)

    October 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CBR

    If you look around you will notice just how much violence has crept into the American way of life. Just read the comments made about stories in the newspapers and on the internet. View the number of people wearing sidearms and the comments they make.

    Even Sarah Palin uses language that makes one think about bearing arms. Her use of language is always surprising but her use of harmful rhetoric is not necessary. She does get the crowd going but I am sure she would be able to do that in another way.

    We need remind people that no game is worth the life-threatening injuries or even an injury causing the player to become paralyzed.. A few changes in vocabulary and a new acceptance of less violence in sports might be the way to go.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • crying game

      Indoor plumbing is what caused it. To big of a luxury.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • james577864

      YOU DONT HAVE TO PLAY IF YOU ARE SCARDED OF THE RISKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let other men enjoy the thrill of the hard hits and go watch your Will and Grace

      October 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. John Augustyn

    Football is a contact sport and needs to remain one, but for even those who played, no one pictured head to head contact a essential element of the game. Good hard tackling is a skill. The adding of head to head contact came from introduction of harder helments. A hard helment can protect from face and some head injury and needs to remain, but there is nothing in football that would prevent having a rule that a defensive player can not contact an offensive players head or helment with the intent of blocking, tackling, dislodging the ball or injuring the player.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bleedsred87

    Niners are going all the way to the Super Bowl!!! Go Niners!

    October 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      Yeah right, more likely as spectators.

      October 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Beck

    There is a huge difference between a big hit and leading with your helmet trying to purposely inflict injury on a player. A lot of you seem to be missing that. No one is asking for the big tackles to be taken out of the sport. And besides, I've seen more players go for the "big hit" and miss the guy with the ball all together. Stop trying to feed your ego and just make the play!

    If seeing someone being carted off the field brings you pleasure and entertainment, then you are a sick, sick person.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. J

    Go the opposite direction – put spikes on their shoulder-pads and helmets.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • steeve-o

      Yeah, and have only convicted violent felons in the draft. You ever see "The Running Man"?

      October 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16