We’ve had a lot of discussion over the last few days on 101 ESPN about the helmet to helmet hits that saturated the NFL on Sunday.
While the idea espoused by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson on Mike and Mike Tuesday morning of suspending players for flagrant illegal hits is a good start, there’s more to accomplish.
Pittsburgh James Harrison was fined $75,000 for his hits that knocked Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs and Mohammad Massoquoi out of the game against the Browns. Neither of Harrison’s hits drew a penalty.
New England’s Brandon Merriweather’s vicious hit on Baltimore tight end Todd Heap drew a $50,000 fine. Even Bill Belichick yelled at Merriweather after the hit…which did incur an unnecessary roughness penalty.
Dunta Robinson of Atlanta laid out Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson. Jackson was knocked into next week, and probably out of next week’s game against Tennessee. Robinson was fined $50,000 too, although his hit appeared to be more legal than the others.
The question I have is about officials. If Harrison can be fined $75,000 for two hits that weren’t penalized, what does that say about the officiating crew? Along those lines, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford easily could have suffered a serious injury when San Diego’s Kevin Burnett launched himself for a helmet to helmet hit. That blow wasn’t penalized, either.
Sure, this is football. I’m all about hard hits and violence. But if the league is going to keep talking about the safety of players, two things have to happen. First, they need to stick to their guns with the idea of suspensions without pay for these vicious blows.
But the job of the officials is to police the safety of those players. If the officials in the Steelers-Browns game or the Rams-Chargers game aren’t going to do their job in protecting the players, they need to be suspended without pay, too. If the officials aren’t going to enforce the league’s rules on the field, how should players know what their limitations are?