NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell distributed a memo to all 32 teams today about illegal hits to the head and neck area, and ordered all 32 head coaches to show a video demonstrating examples of legal and illegal hits, and to read a message about the video to the team.
“One of our most important priorities is protecting our players from needless injury,” Goodell said in comments distributed by the league. “In recent years, we have emphasized minimizing contact to the head and neck, especially where a defenseless player is involved. It is clear to me that further action is required to emphasize the importance of teaching safe and controlled techniques, and of playing within the rules. It is incumbent on all of us to support the rules we have in place to protect players.”
Every team has been warned that there will be enhanced discipline for shots to the head and neck, including, in flagrant cases, the possibility of suspensions for first-time offenders.
And it’s particularly noteworthy that the league’s memo said, “Coaches are expected to teach playing within the rules. Failure to do so will subject both the coach and the employing club to discipline.”
So that would mean, as Mike Florio noted in his Monday 10-Pack, that a coach like Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan could be subject to league discipline for plays like the blow to the head that got Browns safety T.J. Ward a $15,000 fine — especially after Ryan said that Ward is “hitting him the way we teach him.”
Per Goodell’s mandate, all 32 coaches have been told to tell their teams the following: “One of our highest priorities is player safety. We all know that football is a tough game that includes hard contact. But that carries with it an obligation to do all that we can to protect all players from unnecessary injury caused by dangerous techniques from those who play outside the rules.”
Only time will tell whether players change their ways. If they don’t, they and their coaches could be suspended.