The NFL announced Tuesday that it will begin suspending players for dangerous and flagrant hits, particularly those involving helmets. Suspensions will be in place for this weekend's games, the Associated Press reports, while at least three players have been fined for hits they made last Sunday - among several violent plays, many of which resulted in concussions.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison was docked $75,000, while the New England Patriots' Brandon Meriweather and the Atlanta Falcons' Dunta Robinson will lose $50,000 each. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the AP that the league wants to give players fair warning before it begins suspensions.
In the past, players were either fined or ejected for illegal hits. "There are folks that understand that football is a physical game," Ray Anderson, the NFL's vice president of football operations, told the AP. "Part of the enjoyment is that some of the violence is appealing. That has to be violence within the rules. There are very specific rules for that."
Not only is the league worried about defenders turning themselves into human missiles, it's also concerned about tacklers aiming for the head with their forearm, shoulder or any other body part. "We're certainly concerned," said Anderson, a member of the NFL's competition committee and one of its loudest voices on the need for enhanced player safety. "The fundamentally old way of wrapping up and tackling seems to have faded away. A lot of the increase is from hits to blow guys up. That has become a more popular way of doing it. We are concerned they are getting away from the fundamentals of tackling, and maybe it has been coached that way. We're going to have to look into talking to our coaches."
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison - who sidelined two Cleveland Browns players with head injuries after jarring hits Sunday - has vehemently defended his play. "If I get fined for that, it's going to be a travesty," Harrison told the AP before being asked to cough up $75,000. "They didn't call (a penalty) on that. There's no way I could be fined for that. It was a good, clean, legit hit. ... I didn't hit that hard, to be honest with you. When you get a guy on the ground, it's a perfect tackle."
For a rundown of last weekend's most-vicious hits and a lively debate, click here.
Update-October 21:Here is the memo NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued to players and coaches on Wednesday regarding on-the-field safety.