The National Football League may start suspending players for dangerous hits to the head to crack down on collisions like the one that sidelined Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson.
Ray Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said today the league may need more than fines to protect players from helmet-to-helmet collisions, or “flagrant” or “egregious” blows.
“We’re going to circle back and take a more aggressive look at them because the events of yesterday were certainly disturbing to all of us,” Anderson said in a telephone interview. “We say it time again: Player safety is our top priority and then you have a Sunday like yesterday where it seemed like every time you looked around, a player was on the ground for an extended period of time.”
Anderson said the change could take effect immediately since it wouldn’t involve a new rule but instead represent a “different emphasis” in enforcement. Even first-time offenders may be suspended, he said.
Jackson and the Falcons’ Dunta Robinson were both knocked out of their teams’ game yesterday after a head-to-head collision. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison sidelined two players on the Cleveland Browns with head injuries.
Eagles coach Andy Reid said it would be a “real stretch” for Jackson to play in next weekend’s game against the Tennessee Titans, according to the Associated Press. Harrison said he’s out to hurt any opposing player who enters his vicinity, the wire service reported.
The problem of violent hits in football wasn’t limited to the NFL over the weekend. Two days ago, Rutgers University defensive lineman Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down after suffering a spinal cord injury during the team’s 23-20 overtime win against Army.
Anderson said the league was determined to prevent such Injuries. He mentioned the case of Darryl Stingley, a New England Patriots receiver paralyzed on the field by Oakland Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum in 1978.
“You’re not talking about career-altering hits, these are potentially life-altering hits,” Anderson said. “We don’t want another Darryl Stingley.”
Rodney Harrison, a retired Patriots safety, said fines never stopped him from overly aggressive play.
“You didn’t get my attention when you fined me $5,000, $10,000, $15,000,” said Harrison, now an analyst with NBC, on the pre-game show for last night’s “Sunday Night Football” telecast. “You got my attention when I got suspended and I had to get away from my teammates and I disappointed my teammates from not being there. You have to suspend these guys.”