NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — The NFL is getting serious about suspending players for illegal hits – effective immediately.
The NFL will immediately begin suspending players for dangerous and flagrant hits that violate rules, particularly those involving helmets.
Suspensions will be in place for this weekend’s games and could be handed out for hits that took place last Sunday, vice president of football operations Ray Anderson told WFAN’s Boomer & Carton Tuesday.
“Apparently fines in and of themselves aren’t getting the message across,” Anderson said. “Nothing’s off the table if it’s going to make us safer.”
In the past, players were either fined or ejected for illegal hits. But after the series of recent flagrant tackles, several of which resulted in concussions, the NFL ratcheted up the punishment “for egregious and elevated hits,” Anderson said.
Among the hits getting attention last weekend:
—The Eagles’ DeSean Jackson and the Falcons’ Dunta Robinson were knocked out of their game after a frightening collision in which Robinson launched himself head first to make a tackle. Both sustained concussions.
—Ravens tight end Todd Heap took a vicious hit from Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather that Heap called “one of those hits that shouldn’t happen.”
—The Steelers’ James Harrison sidelined two Browns players with head injuries after jarring hits. An NFL spokesman said one of the tackles, on Joshua Cribbs, was legal. The Browns were more upset about Harrison’s hit on Mohamed Massaquoi, which the league is reviewing.
Not only is the league worried about defenders turning themselves into human missiles, but also with them aiming for the head with the forearm, shoulder or any other body part.
“We understand it’s a physical game,” Anderson explained to Boomer & Carton. “You’ve got to keep it within the rules.”
After players around the league had the chance to view some of those hits, reactions to possible suspensions were mixed. Texans tackle Eric Winston, a former college teammate of Meriweather at Miami, and a former teammate of Robinson in Houston, saw dissimilarities in the two tackles involving those players.
“I love Brandon to death, but that was a flagrant foul. That’s what the league is talking about,” Winston said. “Dunta’s hit, that wasn’t even with the helmet. That was just a collision. I don’t think that’s what they’re talking about. I think they’re talking more about the Meriweather stuff, where it’s not only leading with your helmet, but it’s also a launching. You know it when you see it, and there’s a difference.
“I’m the first one to say that not every penalty should be a fine. But there is a difference between whether it’s a flagrant-ejection kind of a hit or whether it’s a 15-yard penalty.”
Andre Johnson, the Texans’ All-Pro wide receiver, noted that some of the violence can’t be removed from the sport.
“A lot of times, guys are just out there playing and they’ll just go and get you,” he said. “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.”
AP Sports Writer Chris Duncan in Houston contributed to this story.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.