Roger Goodell and the NFL have good intentions with the new suspension and fine rules, but this slapdash tweak to the rulebook has already left players and fans confused. James Harrison(notes) getting fined $75,000 is understandable. Everyone except Harrison acknowledges that his hits were dirty. But what about Dunta Robinson(notes) getting fined $50,000 for a perfectly legal hit on DeSean Jackson(notes)? That was a great play with an unfortunate result. Yet his fine suggests the NFL is only serious about sanctioning players who cause injury, not ones who do so with vicious, reckless intent. If Jackson had popped up right after that hit, would Robinson still owe 50K today? I doubt it.
Decisions to fine and suspend can't be made because of a hit's end result. Goodell will insist that they're not doing that, but the Robinson fine proves otherwise. This is a slippery slope for the league to pursue.
The NFL didn't think this through. Goodell and the suits in the front office swiftly overreacted to a serious issue without thinking of the implications. It's as if they saw concussed players, said "this has to stop," and threatened every player who ever wanted to make a tackle. Players aren't pleased:
"It's freaking football. There are going to be big hits. I don't understand how they can do this after one weekend of hitting. And I can't understand how they can suspend us for it. I think it's a bunch of bull.
"You know what we should do? We should just put flags on everybody. Let's make it the NFFL - the National Flag Football League. It's unbelievable."
"Say it's third-and-15 and you go across the middle. As a defender, you try to dislodge that ball so he doesn't make the catch. Now, it's what, you let them catch it? You make the tackle, but they pick up the first down? I don't know."
"To really be honest, I don't think it's going to change the way I play the game. There's a lot of hoopla going around that I'm a dirty player. I'm not trying to injure anyone. It's a physical game, it's a violent game. You're going to get hurt."
"It's really hard because you only have that split-second to determine what to do. It's crazy. I try my best to use clear judgment and make clear decisions, but a lot of those collisions are unavoidable. You're either going to let them catch it and take a step to see what's going on, or there's going to be a collision."
5. Antrel Rolle
"It's fine for the offensive players but I'm on the defensive side of the ball. So are you telling me that now I have to slow down? I think we're already being cautious of what we're doing and how we're attacking the ball or how we're trying to make a tackle. I think that's absolutely ridiculous because under any circumstances you can't just absolutely have control over your body when you're pursuing a tackle.
"This is the game of football. This is a game of speed. This is a game of power. This is a game of physical guys going to battle. Once you start saying to guys 'You'll get suspended for a game,' that's when you're going to get a very, very tentative football game."
"A lot of times, guys are just out there playing and they'll just go and get you. I don't really think they're thinking about the helmet-to-helmet contact. You'll probably see a lot of players more hesitant before they make their hits."
"As far as dude running the ball, or running with the ball, and somebody hit you helmet to helmet, I think you got an opportunity to go down. You got an opportunity to slide."
"Have we become a cupcake league? We already have better helmets and gear. Wonder how the old school players feel about this. Not in the back of minds when talking about 18 game season so let's play football please....Even guys using shoulders to hit are getting flagged for helmet-to-helmet. Defense is getting sloppy because guys are avoiding fines and will get worse if suspending comes into play....
"There has been a warning sticker on the back of every helmet since pee wee league. When u put that helmet on you know you will hit or be hit. We still choose to play. Parents are asked to sign forms for their kids to play because of the dangers of the sport. Nothing is different."
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- Roger Goodell