In the wake of several helmet-to-helmet hits from Sunday’s NFL games, some of which caused injuries, the league will immediately begin suspending players for dangerous and flagrant hits, it was announced today.
There could also be suspensions handed down as a result of some of Sunday’s hits. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson suffered a concussion after being slammed in the helmet by Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson, and Browns receivers Joshua Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi were injured on hits by Steelers linebacker James Harrison. The hit on Massaquoi is being reviewed by the NFL.
Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather’s hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap will also be examined.
NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson, who is in charge of enforcing safety rules, made it clear yesterday that the league will adopt a no tolerance policy for these types of hits, and did not rule out the possibility of suspensions from the weekend’s games.
Anderson clarified earlier today that the league is not considering any change to existing rules, but will more rigorously enforce them. He also said in an interview on ESPN Radio that referees will be given clearer guidelines as to when a player should be ejected from a game after a vicious hit.
"We need to get our players firmly in line with the current rules," Anderson said. “What we're trying to make sure our players understand is that you should know the rules. The coaches know the rules, the players should know the rules. And so if you are in violations of the rules - particularly one of those trying to protect against head, neck injuries - we're going to hold you to a higher standard."
He added: "We are just going to enforce the existing rules much more to the letter of the law so we can protect our players. If it's an illegal hit under the rules, then you're going to be held accountable.”
When asked specifically about Meriweather’s hit, in which he launched himself at Heap, Anderson said: "That in our view is something that was flagrant, it was egregious. And effective immediately, that's going to be looked at at a very aggressive level, which could include suspension without pay."
Anderson said that officials have the authority to eject players in those situations, and that the league will communicate with officials "so their authority to eject will be clarified."
Anderson said he believes administering the rules currently in place won’t diminish the physical aspect of football that many fans find popular.
"We understand this is not just about the NFL," Anderson said. "This is about safety at our level, at the college level, at the high school level, at the pee wee level, because we are the standard bearer and we are committed to safety at the highest level.
"So we will take all the criticism and all the backlash against those that say we are acting too aggressively in this regard. We are not going to be apologetic. We are not going to be defensive about it. We are going to protect our players and hopefully players at the lower levels as well by example."