The fallout after last Sunday’s helmet-to-helmet hits revealed a real lack of clarity and knowledge about the existing NFL rulebook.
The confusion starts with players, coaches, and the media, and extends to fans. ESPN’s Mark Schlereth told Florio on Schlereth’s radio show that the rulebook was not used by his television producers in preparation to discuss the helmet-to-helmet hit issue.
That lack of preparation often became clear this week on many networks analysts discussed the different offending hits that were fined this week.
I am just as guilty as anyone of needing to know the rules better. When Falcons G.M. Rich McKay appeared on NFL Network Wednesday, he helped make it clearer for me why a hit like Dunta Robinson’s takeout of DeSean Jackson was worthy of such a hefty fine.
These aren’t new rules. They are just getting more media attention and punished more severely.
In an effort to clarify what is and isn’t a violation, the NFL sent a video to all 32 teams explaining what is and isn’t an illegal hit. We applaud the measure, and appreciate that the league posting the same video on their website so fans can understand as well.
The video can be viewed here.
Ray Anderson, Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the NFL, explains why Robinson’s hit and others like the one from Browns safety T.J. Ward earlier this season were illegal. Perhaps the strongest words came for the Brandon Meriweather hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap.
“This play is inexcusable. Severe discipline will result in these types of illegal hits,” Anderson said.
The video also show examples of hard, legal hits. They used Ray Lewis’ hit on Jets tight end Dustin Keller late in Week One as an example of a textbook tough hit.
There has been a lot of backlash to all player safety conversation this week, mostly from players and ex-players. But the NFL has changed rules throughout its history for player safety and the league is better for it. (Including the use of a helmet at all.)
Those changes and the enforcement of those changes were almost always met with resistance.