After Sunday’s parade of helmet-to-helmet hits put the issue back on the league’s front burner, former Chargers and Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who now appears on NBC’s Football Night in America, sent a message that resonated strongly with the league office.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen explained during Monday Night Countdown that Harrison’s explanation regarding fines meaning nothing to him but suspensions meaning everything caught the league’s attention. Per Mort, Commissioner Roger Goodell said “we’ve got to do something about this, we’ve got to listen to this, we’ve got to take these guys off the field.”
Added ESPN’s Tom Jackson of Goodell: “I don’t that any Commissioner ever in the history of the national football league has cared more about the welfare of players than this man. So he’s not gonna let it happen. He’s not gonna let it happen.”
As we’ve explained, it starts with ejections, possibly via a suggested procedure that would allow the replay official (or a “safety official”) to monitor the game and eject players who use their helmets as weapons.
The key will be to distinguish legal from illegal hits. After Mort’s report, ESPN’s Keyshawn Johnson spoke about an occasion when he was hit hard while playing, but the video of the contact that flattened Johnson was a clean shoulder hit to the arm area. Notions of Newtonian physics results in Johnson’s helmet flying off and his body hitting the ground, but it was a clean hit.
The clean hits should stay; the dirty hits need to go. The NFL now seems to be convinced of that.
Thanks in large part to NBC’s Rodney Harrison, who I thought was going to hit me (again) during our video segment last night, which included more discussion regarding this important issue.