Eschewing the system of progressive discipline that typically applies to players who violate in-game safety rules, the NFL has suspended Panthers safety Dante Wesley for one game, without pay, based on his blow to the head and neck of Tampa Bay punt returner Clifton Smith during Sunday’s game between the two teams.
Wesley left his feet and launched himself at Smith while Smith was waiting to catch a punt.
Wesley was penalized and ejected from the game.
Wrote NFL V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson in a letter to Wesley: “The playing rules (Rule 10, Section 1, Article 1) specifically provide that a member of the kicking team is prohibited from interfering with a receiver attempting to catch an airborne kick. The prohibited contact in this case went well beyond simply interfering with the receiver. Instead, by striking your defenseless opponent in the head and neck area, you committed an unnecessary and unnecessarily dangerous act that is specifically prohibited by the rules. . . .
“Your actions are of particular concern in light of the emphasis that our office has placed on developing and enforcing rules designed to protect players from injury, including head and neck injuries. The safety of our players is paramount to all of us in the NFL.”
Wesley will miss Sunday’s game against the Bills due to what the league has termed a “flagrant violation” of player safety rules.