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NFL vows tougher disciplinary measures for illegal hits to head

One day after a series of jarring hits by defensive players in games that left offensive players with head injuries, a top NFL official vowed Monday that the league will crack down on dangerous, illegal hits by utilizing more severe disciplinary measures.

Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, said players potentially will be suspended for illegal hits to an opponent's head even if it is a first offense for the player involved.

"The hits from [Sunday's games] are going through our normal review process," Anderson said. "You can anticipate going forward, in the event of a hit that is flagrant or unnecessarily exposes someone to injury, we're going to be aggressive with elevated discipline, possibly including a suspension for a first offense. We need to dispel the notion that you get a free pass for a first offense.... We're going to another level of accountability."

The league's reaction came after several high-profile plays during Sunday's games. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson reportedly suffered a severe concussion on a hit by Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson. Two Cleveland Browns players, wide receiver and kick returner Joshua Cribbs and wideout Mohamed Massaquoi, suffered head injuries on hits Sunday by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison.

"It's not just helmet-to-helmet hits," Anderson said in a telephone interview. "Hits to the head that are flagrant and egregious and against the rules, we're going to circle back and take a look at them. The events of [Sunday] were certainly disturbing to all of us. It seemed like every time you turned around, there was another player on the ground for an extended period. We feel compelled to be aggressive and proactive. We don't want another Darryl Stingley on one of our fields."

Stingley, a wide receiver the New England Patriots, suffered a broken neck in an on-field collision with Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum during an exhibition game in August 1978 and was left a quadriplegic. Stingley spent the remainder of his life in a wheelchair and died in 2007 at age 55. Tatum's hit was legal under the sport's rules at the time.

The NFL has enacted rules in recent years to protect players, including quarterbacks and wide receivers, deemed to be in defenseless positions during games. Defenders first were barred from delivering helmet-to-helmet hits on such players. Last offseason, those protections were extended to make other hits to the head--those with a defender's shoulder or forearm--also illegal.

By Mark Maske  |  October 18, 2010; 4:59 PM ET  | Category:  League Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: NFL, union to provide coverage to retired players with ALS | Next: Suspensions possible for illegal hits last weekend

Comments

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For years the NFL and ESPN glorified these violent hits - ESPN had a segment called "Jacked Up", it is a part of the game but something does need to be done about the blatant hits

Posted by: pariahdecss | October 19, 2010 5:36 AM

This is not rocket science. Just increase the cushioning of the helmets. The helmets will be bigger, perhaps with a slight conical shape to protect the top angle hits that do the most damage to the spine, but so what? The players are stronger and faster, so the headgear should keep pace. A two inch Dow Ethafoam polyethylene pad on top of the helmets ought to work out nicely and prevent any more spinal injuries. Fines won't work at all, that's just silly.

Posted by: TogetherinParis | October 19, 2010 3:17 AM

100 years ago, when football was under the province of the Ivy League schools, an average of 10 players would die every year from brain injury. The deaths were so prevalent that President Ted Roosevelt almost banned the game of football. So the soft leather helmets did not help. It is the nature of this sport that creates the overly enthusiastic tackler -- training that goes back to Pop Warner football coaches who encourages hard tackling with the body -- not the arms.

Posted by: jrzarco2001 | October 18, 2010 11:49 PM

Based on success of RedZone channel, NFL launches Helmet-to-Helmet channel so fans will never miss another violent collision or concussion. :-)

Posted by: blondon | October 18, 2010 7:50 PM

The offender should be banned from the game. I will guarantee you that this practice would end when one player was terminated!

Posted by: annfried07 | October 18, 2010 7:20 PM

Fergusonws has it right. Non-rigid padding of a limited thickness would eliminate the current practice of using the helmet and shoulder pads as a weapon, or an enhancement to the tackle. I would argue, sans statistics, that the early game of football had far fewer concussions, or head and neck injuries.

Posted by: 6thandD | October 18, 2010 6:53 PM

How about prohibiting ALL hits to the head or neck, to any player, at any position?

Posted by: nan_lynn | October 18, 2010 6:51 PM

If players are unwilling to get their brains bashed in every Sunday for the amusement of spectators, does that mean their pay and as a result ticket prices will go down?

Posted by: michaelcharliedelta | October 18, 2010 6:49 PM

It seems simple to me. Adopt the rugby equipment modality: no helmets, no shoulder pads.

Posted by: fergusonws | October 18, 2010 6:31 PM

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