The NFL’s consistent inconsistency continues regarding the decision to suspend Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis two games.
One game would have made sense, given the precedent established two weeks ago when the league suspended Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for an illegal hit on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Two games seems excessive.
At first blush, there was a chance Davis wouldn’t be suspended at all, because the illegal hit on Packers receiver Davante Adams came not during a prime-time game but within the cluster of 1:00 p.m. ET kickoffs. After all, Smith-Schuster’s suspension supposedly arose not only from the hit but also from the fact that he taunted Burfict. Balancing that, from the perspective of a one-game suspension, was the fact that Davis was fined $48,620 last month for an illegal hit.
Still, two games seems excessive for a hit that occurred during a play, especially with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski getting only one game for a post-play pounce on the head of Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White.
Predictability, consistency, fairness. None of that seems to apply when it comes to meting out discipline for on-field rules violations.
Yes, there’s an independent review process. But there isn’t a stubborn commitment to generating decision after decision that harmonizes in a way that would allow someone on the outside to look at a given hit and know right away what the punishment will be.
Tuesday’s appeal hearing could reduce the Davis suspension to one game. And maybe the league went with two to get the final decision down to one. Regardless, it shouldn’t be this way; when a player yanks an opponent’s facemask, everyone knows the penalty is 15 yards of field position. When a player applies an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on an opponent, everyone should know the outcome, too.