The National Football League handed out $175,000 in fines for flagrant hits that endanger safety and said it will begin suspending players for similar actions, particularly blows to the head.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison was fined $75,000, while Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson and New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather were docked $50,000 each, the NFL said in a statement.
“Future offenses will result in an escalation of fines up to and including suspension,” Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, said in letters sent to each player.
Anderson told ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” radio program today that the U.S.’s most-watched television sport is trying to protect players from head and neck injuries.
“We need to get our players firmly in line with the current rules and that’s what our intentions are, effective immediately,” Anderson said.
In an interview yesterday, Anderson said the NFL may suspend even first-time offenders for dangerous hits, because fines have proven insufficient as a deterrent.
Harrison, who hit two Cleveland players hard enough to sideline them with head injuries two days ago, was fined $75,000 because he’s a repeat offender, Anderson said. Harrison had been fined $5,000 for a roughing the passer hit against Tennessee quarterback Vince Young on Sept. 19.
Harrison “unnecessarily struck a defenseless receiver in the head” when he injured Cleveland’s Mohamed Massaquoi during the second quarter of the Steelers’ win two days ago.
NFL rules state a hit is deemed unnecessary roughness if the initial force of contact -- by a defender’s helmet, forearm or shoulder -- is to the head or neck of a defenseless receiver trying to catch a pass.
Robinson was fined for the same infraction on Oct. 17, a second-quarter hit that left Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson with a concussion. Robinson also sustained a concussion on the play.
Meriweather was fined for two hits to an opponent’s head area last weekend, including one on Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap that Anderson said was egregious.
“We are not changing any rules,” Anderson said on ESPN. “We are just going to enforce the existing rules much more to the letter of the law so we can protect our players.”
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