Rich McKay is both the president of the Falcons and the co-chair of the NFL’s competition committee, and that means he’s walking a fine line in discussing the $50,000 fine handed down to Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson for a violent collision with Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson.
But McKay attempted to walk that line Wednesday night on NFL Network’s “Competition Committee” segment when discussing the hit that got Robinson fined. And while McKay didn’t come right out and say that that Robinson deserved a penalty and stiff fine, he did say that a defensive player who launches himself at a defenseless receiver can be flagged and fined even if there’s no helmet-to-helmet contact.
“A lot of people call it helmet-to-helmet but that’s really not the way you can call it anymore because in essence it says that until a player has completed the act of a catch, you cannot initiate contact to the head or neck area with your shoulder, your forearm or your helmet,” McKay said. “That was expanded two years ago because there were so many hits going on where there was a shoulder hit that was going to the receiver and causing injury.”
So even if Robinson only used his shoulder to hit Jackson, it was still a penalty. That will come as a surprise to a lot of NFL fans who thought a hit with the shoulder pads is a textbook example of what a defensive player should do. But McKay said the NFL is just trying to make players safe — not change the way players play.
“People get concerned that you’re changing the game,” McKay said. “We’re not trying to change the game in any way, shape or form.”
McKay said that the league’s motivation is, “We’re trying to get away from having situations in which players are subjected to unreasonable risk of injury.”
NFL Network’s Rich Eisen questioned why instant replay couldn’t be used to check whether a hit is legal or illegal, pointing out that Jets safety Jim Leonhard was flagged for unnecessary roughness even though the replay appeared to show that Leonhard did nothing against the rules.
“Replay is not a panacea — we’re not a league that’s going to try to get every play and call right,” McKay said. “We’re going to try to use replay as a complementary system to correct the obvious error on the big, big play. . . . I don’t see us as a league that wants to get into the business of having penalties be reviewed.”
But while referees won’t use replay to review illegal hits during the game, we’ll all continue to scrutinize replays to review illegal hits after the game. And some of that scrutiny will lead to fines and suspensions — even for players who don’t lead with their helmets.