The National Football League will begin suspending players for illegal hits starting immediately. The league announced today that suspensions will take the place of fines for helmet-to-helmet collisions and violent hits. NFL officials are seeking to reduce the number of concussions and serious injuries after a recent barrage of head injuries.
There were several players hurt because of hard hits last Sunday alone. Cleveland wide receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi were both diagnosed with concussions after each were hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, while Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson and Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson were involved in a violent collision that left both with concussions. Detroit Lions linebacker Zack Follett had to be carted off the field on a kick return after a helmet-to-helmet hit with the New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul, Washington tight end Chris Cooley suffered a concussion against Indianapolis, and Baltimore’s Todd Heap left the game briefly after a helmet-to-helmet hit from New England’s Brandon Meriweather.
In an ESPN Radio interview on Tuesday morning, NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said the league’s focus will be on defenseless players. “We get the [response] all the time that, ‘What’s a defender to do?’ Well, we, in these situations, have to say the defender has to adjust his target area,” Anderson said. “The player has to wrap up. He has to do the things more fundamentally that we used to do — when we used to tackle back in the day. We would like them to do more of that. But with the seriousness of the head and neck trauma and concussions generally, we’ve got a responsibility to just make sure that players understand and adapt.” Anderson said the enforcement of the rules, and the potential suspensions that may go along with it, will help protect the safety of the players.