Conspicuously silent in the ongoing debate regarding the revised penalties for helmet-to-helmet hits has been the NFL Players Association. Per a union source, the NFLPA has opted to monitor the situation pending the release of the NFL’s official position on the revised enforcement of the rules currently on the books.
Curiously, the NFL as of this morning had not reached out to the union to discuss any of the potential changes to the enforcement process. Earlier this year, the NFL and the NFLPA jointly announced agreed-to changes to the on-field disciplinary rules.
Though the union supports the issue of player safety, the union also wants a disciplinary process that is fair and not arbitrary. Currently, fines and suspensions for on-field infractions are reviewed by Art Shell and Ted Cottrell. It’s unknown at this point whether Shell and Cottrell will have that same role when it comes to suspensions for a first-offense violation of the helmet-to-helmet rule.
The NFLPA, we’re told, is pondering whether a separate process should apply in these situations, or whether the review will still be handled by Shell and Cottrell.
Hopefully, the NFL will get on the same page with the union before announcing the new procedures. Though a squabble in which the NFL would be perceived as trying to protect the health of all players and the NFLPA would be trying to protect from discipline those players whose actions may injure other players could be a good thing for the league with respect to the broader CBA-related battle for the hearts and minds of the fans, the league and the union need to speak with one voice on this issue, which is critical to the continued growth and popularity of the game.