NFL V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson has spoken, and in so doing he apparently has contradicted his own words to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
After creating on Monday night the clear impression that the rules regarding hits involving helmets will be changed dramatically, Anderson said on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, “We’re not changing any rule.” Instead, Anderson said that the league will be beefing up the enforcement of the existing rules.
“If there are flagrant and egregious violations of our current rules, we will be enforcing effective immediately discipline at a higher level,” Anderson said. “We need to get our players firmly in line with the current rules, and that’s what our intentions are, effective immediately.”
But what about the widespread notion, pushed for the last 12 hours by ESPN, that “devastating hits” and “head shots” will be legislated out of the game?
Said Anderson: “I don’t know where the word devastating came from but that’s not my word.”
So whose word was it?
According to Mortensen, Anderson said, “We’ve got to get the message to players that these devastating hits and
head shots will be met with a very necessary higher standard of
accountability. We have to dispel the notion that you get one free pass
in these egregious or flagrant shots.” (Emphasis added.)
Anderson also addressed one of the most debated plays of the weekend — the wicked shot delivered by Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson on Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson. Though Mike Golic loudly has claimed that Robinson’s hit wasn’t illegal, Anderson disagreed.
“Technically under that rule that was a violation . . . and it will be subject to discipline,” Anderson said. “Yes, it was a bang-bang play, you can make the argument that it was different from the others, but at the end of the day it was still illegal under the rules.”
Anderson is right. And we’re amazed that anyone would argue Robinson’s helmet-leaning kill shot on Jackson wasn’t dirty.
As to the question of whether preventing hits to the head will result in more hits to the legs, which could blow out knees, Anderson explained that the league regards injuries resulting from head shots to be potentially “life altering,” whereas hits to the knees are essentially “career altering.” The league wisely has opted to protect against the former.
Anderson also addressed the criticism regarding the new focus on shots to the head, much of which is coming from former players in the media who are seem curiously willing to subject today’s players to risks that the former players no longer have to face. “We understand that this is not just about the NFL,” Anderson said. “This is about safety at our level at the college level, at the high school level, at the pee wee level, because we are the standard bearer and we are committed to safety at the highest level and so we will take all the criticism and all the backlash against those that say we are acting too aggressively in this regard. We are not going to be apologetic, we are not going to be defensive about it. We re going to protect our players and hopefully players at the lower levels by example.
We agree with the approach, and we’ll have more thoughts regarding the various issues and dynamics later in the day. In short, we’re concerned that the NFL isn’t going far enough to protect players from avoidable head injuries, but we don’t want to see the NFL go too far.