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NFL Releases 11-Page Guide To Illegal Hits

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

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NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL wants everyone to know what it told players months ago about illegal hits and how the disciplinary process works.

The league released Tuesday an 11-page guide that details some rules and includes black-and-white drawings of players delivering hits that aren’t allowed. That information was included in the 2010 League Policies for Players manual, distributed to players and coaches at the start of training camp.

The league repeatedly has pointed out that its recent stepped-up fines and threats of suspensions after a series of helmet hits in games were not changes in rules but rather stricter enforcement of existing rules.

Asked why the league distributed this information Tuesday, spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail: “Because fans and media have been discussing these rules quite a bit in the past few weeks.”

The guidelines given to players and coaches include a section entitled, “Clarifications of hits on defenseless players and roughing the passer fouls.”

And there are various reminders, such as:

— “Discipline may be imposed for a first offense and without prior warning,” it says;

— Punishment isn’t limited to plays where penalties are called during games, and this sentence is in bold type: “If a postgame review establishes an egregious violation, particularly involving safety-related issues such as hits on the quarterback, the offender may be subject to suspension”;

— Game officials unsure of whether to throw a flag on a particular play, the guide reads, “should lean toward player safety and call the foul.”

The NFL also outlined the punishment and appeals process for fines and suspensions, noting that system is outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. Discipline is based on a review by the NFL officiating department of every play in every game.

Player appeals are ruled on by Hall of Fame player Art Shell and Ted Cottrell, both former NFL coaches. They are appointed and paid jointly by the NFL and NFLPA, the league said.

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu said recently that active players and team executives should have a say in deciding fines. Commissioner Roger Goodell, though, said the league has been opposed to allowing that sort of input when it comes to deciding punishments.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.