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. karek40

    JLS it should be obvious if you think about it. 1. They are competing against the best. 2. If they hit the receiver or QB hard enough he may fumble and it will improve their chances of winning and their salary will go up if they lead the league in sacks, fumble recoveries, stats of any type. Make no mistake about it, this all about money (not the game). I for one would quit watching if they tone down the game. They play lights out and generally the best team wins, tone it down and that will probably not be the case.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. gadlaw

    Thank goodness something is being done now. The Rutgers boy being paralyzed, all the vicious hits that could have paralyzed someone this last week, to do nothing would be irresponsible and actionable. Now with the threat of expulsion from the game and losing game checks and appearances the players will listen. The rules protecting Kickers and QB's have worked, these will work as well.

    October 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allen

      The Rutgers player injured himself. He was the defensive player, He lead low with his helmet. The Army running back seeing the oncoming hit by the Rutgers player, turned away and the Rutgers defender hit the Army runner in the back. This is the exact opposite argument to the alleged ruthless hits that were allegedly to inflict injury. The Rutgers player needed a foam rubber collar worn between the shoulder pads and the helmet, they were used when I played football in the 1960s.

      October 19, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rugga

    All they need to do is take all the pads and helmets away and outline what is to be considered a legal tackle. Only make it legal to tackle the ball carrier and don't stop the game every five seconds when someone falls down.
    Now that will be a great game to watch....

    October 19, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      it's called rugby

      October 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Earl Joseph Gaines

    Did you get that new J M 2030? Yes, but I didn't know any of the robots name. I know them all.! Where have you been? Oh, you stopping watching football when the NFL switch to robots - too many hard-hitting weekends on humans!!

    October 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. M. Winkler

    Ah.....didn't mean to respond to "Ellen"....sorry.......just meant in general terms, WHERE WAS THE NFL WHEN MIKE WEBSTER NEEDED HELP FROM HIS INJURIES AND LEFT HOMELESS?

    October 19, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bleed on

    Provide them with all the high tech protection, then say you can't hit? Makes no sense. This sport needs a good overhaul. Remove the pads and helmets, then lets watch some real carnage!!!

    October 19, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      It'd be more boring and more sloppy without all the protection they have now, and not nearly as hard hitting. Nobody is going to try and wreck someone when they don't have any protection themselves

      October 19, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. PHinMiami

    Considering the correlation of concussions with Lou Gehrig Disease, if only 1 player can be spared that tragic death, so be it. Also, any 'downed' player should be removed from the game, no matter the injury. It would help keep players safe, even if against their will and make the 'Drama Queens' rethink.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trevor, Austin, TX

      You're confused, Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) is not caused by external trauma. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is the affliction you are thinking of, and it is thought that Lou Gehrig suffered from both ALS & CTE.

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

      I am not confused (not do I have a head injury, geesh). http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/08/17/als.lou.gehrigs.concussions/index.html

      October 19, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • PHinMiami

      *nor. My typing skills are not the best.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mr. Matt

    In related news NASCAR will begin fines for speeding.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bleed on

      Ha ha – love it!

      October 19, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Now That's a Hit

      Best damn remark on here...laughed my ahem off....shot coke out my nose. No joke.....right?

      It's football people... what's next...no tackling too hard so they don't blow out a knee? Sorry Adrian Peterson...you'll have to fall down when they touch you now.

      October 19, 2010 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Trevor, Austin, TX

    The key here is that they are not talking about changing the rules, they are talking about stricter enforcement of the current rules. These dirty players who carry out these types of hits will gladly pay a fine, but less gladly accept a suspension. Go to youtube and watch some of the hits in question and I think you'll agree that these types of hits (leading with the helmet) are totally unacceptable.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bleed on

      Nope. Sorry, don't agree. Hit on!

      October 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • vipul desai

      Exactly right. Just enforce the rule by suspending, that's all.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Duke1

    Some have touched on the changes in helmets, but the helmets integrity should not be compromised. What will stop the leading with the head as a weapon is to remove the face mask, or at least go back to the single bar and get rid of the cages. Its time coaches coach the proper way to tackle. The mask also acts as a lever leading to neck injuries.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ThowCatchRunBall

    Take all the pads and helmets away and you'll see just an aggressive game with less injuries and smarter tackles. The safety elements in football have turned the sport into a life long injury sport instead of temporary recoverable injures. Look at boxing, these guys can hardly enunciate after their careers are over. That's where football is headed.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Trey

    Being a good sport used to mean you weren't just a good loser; you were a good winner. You did not embarrass your opponent by running up the score; you won without gloating. You didn't slam the receiver into the ground; you tackled him and broke up the play. You didn't try to win by incapacitating your opponent; you tried to win by out-playing your opponent. Now we have:
    "I don't want to injure anybody," Harrison said " .... I try to hurt people." Never occurs to him to try to win the game without hurting someone; you can play football and not intend to inflict physical pain.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian B

      I think you're watching the wrong 'football'. The kind you would like is spelled with a 'u'. Yes, they try to hurt people. And the NFL cashes in on it EVERY SINGLE WEEK. What do you see when you see a promo for Sunday / Monday Night Football? Big hits, showboating, unsportsmanlike, jawing, and rude behavior.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • crying game

      Harrison understands one good hit puts the fear of the high paid cry babies WR, Owens, to never run inside. I blame Owens and other WR's with big money for the big hits. It is fun to watch them pattie poo around after a game that they could not score.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. steph

    interesting how nothing is mentioned about the 60's and 70's when head hunting in the nfl seemed like it was commonplace. anyone remember the raiders from the 70's? how about guys like dick butkis and his blatant stiff arms? this is football and it's a violent sport. they already have special rules for brady and manning. how much more do they want to turn this into touch football.

    October 19, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • steph

      take a look at old nfl films with butkis and his clothes lines. were there suspensions then.

      October 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sam

    Will they soon have pro boxers and u.f.c. fighters wear helmets in their sport? Football is a rough sport so take it or leave it..

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

    I agree with what Mike Ditka said, take away the face mask.

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