Skip to content

Why doesn’t the NFL have a targeting rule like college?

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 01:  Defensive lineman Joey Bosa #97 of the Ohio State Buckeyes hits quarterback DeShone Kizer #14 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first quarter of the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. Bosa was ejected from the game for targeting.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the NFL devotes $100 million to the prevention and study of concussions, the league is lagging behind college football regarding one of the more important aspects of player safety. College football has a “targeting” rule that mandates ejection when a player engages in a know-it-when-you-see-it effort to use the helmet as a weapon against a defenseless player; the NFL doesn’t.

So why doesn’t the NFL follow suit on the “targeting” concept? It’s an issue Dan Patrick has been hammering, and it’s a topic he and I discussed on his radio/TV show earlier today.

It’s possible that a dramatic change to the rules regarding the circumstances under which a player would be ejected from a game is subject to the rules of collective bargaining. But why would the NFL Players Association have an issue with a rule change that heightens player protection and creates a clear disincentive for any players who may engage in unsafe acts?

Besides, there are plenty of things the NFL wants and the NFL talks about wanting regardless of the bargaining obligation, included (in past years) an expansion of the regular season and (more recently) an expansion of the playoffs. The league has said nothing about wanting to implement a college-style targeting rule.

At a time when the NFL prides itself on safety advances that trickle down, it’s odd to see the league resist a safety rule that should be trickling up.

Yes, the potential ejection of players creates competitive considerations. So does the potential inability of players to continue playing if they suffer a concussion, or if they are being evaluated for a concussion.

It makes plenty of sense, then, to tell players that lunging helmet first into the body or brain of another player won’t simply result in 15 yards and a fine but immediate removal from the field for the rest of the game, no questions asked. It’s the kind of deterrent the NFL needs in order to eliminate outcomes like the one everyone witnessed on Thursday night, when it seemed that the Broncos had quietly determined to tee off on Newton, over and over again, in the hopes of putting him on the sideline or rendering him less effective on the field.

Whether or not that was the plan, the plan worked. And guys like linebacker Brandon Marshall and safety Darian Stewart will gladly bid farewell to the money that will be withheld from a future game check in return for the satisfaction that comes from going 2-0 against a team that previously had won 17 of 18 games. Plenty of players on plenty of teams will gladly make the cash-for-victories swap. When the penalty changes from the removal of funds to a removal from the field, the mindset would instantly change.

Permalink 59 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Rumor Mill, Top Stories
59 Responses to “Why doesn’t the NFL have a targeting rule like college?”
  1. shaggytoodle says: Sep 14, 2016 4:45 PM

    The NFL can fine people, the NCAA can not.

  2. ajg314 says: Sep 14, 2016 4:46 PM

    It would be nice to one day read an article about something, anything, the NFL does that is right.

  3. jrebar88 says: Sep 14, 2016 4:47 PM

    Are the tears still flowing in Carolina? Jeez get over it, can’t imagine what it will be like after San Francisco goes in and beats them….

  4. metalman5150 says: Sep 14, 2016 4:49 PM

    I could change sides back to the “NO EJECTIONS” rule is and only if: helmet-to-helmets penalties CAN NOT be negated or offset by other infractions during that play.

    Converse, I believe if there were an ejection rule for targeting, that ONLY TWITTER can decide as to whether or not that player then gets ejected for the infraction.

  5. ajames35 says: Sep 14, 2016 4:49 PM

    Whether it’s a targeting rule or something similar, the NFL simply must ratchet up its real-time, in-game consequences….*IF* they truly want to reduce the number of head shots.

    Otherwise there’s just so much in-game upside for knocking out a top opposing player.

  6. seabreezes51 says: Sep 14, 2016 4:53 PM

    I suppose that the solution that will work is purposeful targeting of the opponents QB.
    Like a pitcher hitting an opposing batter in retaliation for head hunting.
    Kinda harsh, but that is exactly what will happen if the league allows targeting to be unchecked.
    Not just heads…knees are fragile too.

  7. annapterp says: Sep 14, 2016 4:53 PM

    That’s easy, because its a stupid rule. Every player that has the ball is “targeted”.

  8. harrisonhits2 says: Sep 14, 2016 4:54 PM

    Absolutely not needed.

    And it’s attorneys trying to legislate the game down to the most stupid common denominator like they are American society that is one of the major factors in destroying the quality of the nfl product.

  9. mmack66 says: Sep 14, 2016 4:56 PM

    Because if they did, Denver would run out of players, and would have to forfeit games.

  10. mp42245 says: Sep 14, 2016 4:58 PM

    Make it reviewable, just like NCAA. If it’s not a targeting hit, but still over the line, just the penalty will be enforced, but the ejection overturned. Those guys are so fast, first impression is not always right.

  11. tjacks7 says: Sep 14, 2016 4:59 PM

    Because the NFL is not interested in protecting players brains just just creating a false appearance of caring about protecting players brains.

  12. my1voice58 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:01 PM

    Agreed Mike. And to show how ‘out-of-wack’ the NFL’s priorities are, Panthers guard, Trai Turner was fined 9K+ & penalized 15-yds for unsportsmanlike conduct & would have been ejected from the game for any additional infraction. And what was Trai’s dangerous unsportsmanlike infraction? He was jumping up & down in front of the endzone. Go figure the league’s logic.

  13. jrebar88 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:02 PM

    mmack66 says:
    Sep 14, 2016 4:56 PM
    Because if they did, Denver would run out of players, and would have to forfeit games.
    —-
    The amount of hate the Broncos receive is just astounding! When the Steelers/Ravens had defenses that were top 5, it was just tough, hard-nosed football! Don’t let Denver have the best defense in the NFL though, because that makes them dirty

  14. pastabelly says: Sep 14, 2016 5:02 PM

    shaggytoodle says:
    Sep 14, 2016 4:45 PM
    The NFL can fine people, the NCAA can not.
    ======================================
    The NHL can fine its players and still has match penalties and suspensions. The NFL should follow the NHL. Both sports are dangerous contact sports and there is no reason the NFL can’t protect its players as the NHL does. The answer to WHY is that the NFL really doesn’t care about the players or the NFLPA.

  15. sbdt says: Sep 14, 2016 5:03 PM

    They will when people stop clicking on articles about head injuries, lawsuits, and rule changes.

  16. gergie1957 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:05 PM

    Why can’t the NFL put 7 refs on the field that can see helmet to helmet contact.

  17. jrebar88 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:05 PM

    Anyone care to discuss Ryan Shazier’s hit to the head in the playoff game last year against the Bengals? Clearly targeting, clearly dirty. Cody Wallace launching himself into David Brutons head? Never anyone whining when the Steelers are taking players out of the game.

  18. jkossrt says: Sep 14, 2016 5:06 PM

    I believe that removal from a game could be a deterrent, but maybe not in all cases. I do think that a penalty that would definitely work would go like this. If a player is determined to have deliberately injured another player, then the offending player would be required to sit out as long as the injured player is out of his team’s lineup. Of course this would have to be reviewed and determined that it was intentional. And the injured player would have to be examined by an independent physician. But if a player is at risk of missing a number of games or possibly the season, he will think twice about taking that cheap shot. This would work if the NFL has the nerve to do it.

  19. 3wordanswers says: Sep 14, 2016 5:07 PM

    ……the NFL doesn’t have a ‘targetting’ rule for one simple reason; it wouldn’t be fair to ‘The Steelers’.

    How would they knock so may opposing players out of the game; if there was such a rule ?

  20. justintuckrule says: Sep 14, 2016 5:09 PM

    The league is two minutes away from going to a soccer style yellow card / red card system.

  21. shaggytoodle says: Sep 14, 2016 5:12 PM

    pastabelly says:
    Sep 14, 2016 5:02
    The NHL can fine its players and still has match penalties and suspensions. The NFL should follow the NHL.
    ________
    The NFL does suspend players who don’t stop hitting people in the head I can’t remember off the top off my head whom he was but I believe he played for 9ers or Wash. Last year, Golston maybe???

    I don’t like the targeting rule in the pros because when a player ducks when heading over the middle and gets hit head to head it will always be the defenders fault. In college it’s about the only way to get the point across.

  22. internetcommenter7 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:14 PM

    Targeting is an awful rule that needs to be done away with, not be more widely adopted.

  23. lambeaudungbarn says: Sep 14, 2016 5:15 PM

    harrisonhits2 says:
    Sep 14, 2016 4:54 PM
    Absolutely not needed.

    And it’s attorneys trying to legislate the game down to the most stupid common denominator like they are American society that is one of the major factors in destroying the quality of the nfl product.
    ##################################################################################
    That is the best post I have seen here in 2 years!

  24. mmack66 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:18 PM

    jrebar88 says:
    Sep 14, 2016 5:02 PM

    Don’t let Denver have the best defense in the NFL though, because that makes them dirty
    ————————-

    Denver could have the 32nd ranked defense in the league, and they would still be dirty.

    That’s the Bronco’s Way.

  25. smokehouse56 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:19 PM

    Nothing is going to happen until someone is killed on the field. I can guarantee you that it will than be too late.

  26. maiphatdong says: Sep 14, 2016 5:19 PM

    bring back the XFL

  27. kcchefs58 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:20 PM

    ajg314 says:
    Sep 14, 2016 4:46 PM
    It would be nice to one day read an article about something, anything, the NFL does that is right.
    ——————————————————-
    It continues to be the most popular sport in this country. I know it’s popular to loathe their decisions and inconsistencies, but it’s not like their product is suffering in the revenue department – the only department that matters to the NFL and the owners, and most large companies.

  28. limakey says: Sep 14, 2016 5:26 PM

    Ithink they should have a targeting rule. Fines mean nothing to the player. I think to get the message across, you need to hurt the coach and the team by ejecting the player from that game. If the same player gets ejected from another game then a mandatory four game suspension should be given. No appeal, no $200 for going past home. And it shouldn’t make a difference if the player that was hit was hurt or not or forced to leave the game.

  29. ranlgon says: Sep 14, 2016 5:28 PM

    Just a simple poll. Do you think football has improved under Goodell? Thumbs up if you think football has improved and Thumbs down if you think it is worse.

  30. idpfantasyfootball says: Sep 14, 2016 5:36 PM

    The NFL doesn’t need a targeting rule. The Broncos players should have been ejected from the game. The refs have full power to do that without implementing another stupid rule with a stupid fist to the head referee call that has made college football a running joke.

  31. JSpicoli says: Sep 14, 2016 5:37 PM

    They just haven’t gotten to it yet.

    To be sure football is circling the drain as a sport.

  32. JSpicoli says: Sep 14, 2016 5:38 PM

    lambeaudungbarn says:
    Sep 14, 2016 5:15 PM
    harrisonhits2 says:
    Sep 14, 2016 4:54 PM
    Absolutely not needed.

    And it’s attorneys trying to legislate the game down to the most stupid common denominator like they are American society that is one of the major factors in destroying the quality of the nfl product.
    ##################################################################################
    That is the best post I have seen here in 2 years!

    ______________________________________

    I third that

  33. iseek11 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:39 PM

    How many players would willingly duck into a tackle if you knew the tackler would be immediately ejected? They’re already doing it for the 15 yards. Has to be balance. Both players need to take responsibility.

  34. randomcommenter says: Sep 14, 2016 5:40 PM

    The college rule is horrible. The refs are instructed to call targeting on anything close and then go review it. Then they eject the player if it’s even close.

    In college, guys are not being ejected just for vicious jots. They are being ejected for almost any hit that gets an Ohhh out of the crowd and then you review and see the helmets did touch. The QB is fine but that defensive player is ejected.

    You will have games decided not on the field but under a review hood. What if a key guy like Von Miller gets ejected in the 1st quarter? And the QB gets to keep playing.

    Game is already slanted to the offense. You want to eject a defender. OK, then the guy he hit is out too. Its only fair right, since the assumption is that the hit was so dangerous, then the offensive player must need to be evaluated as well.

  35. jgedgar70 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:42 PM

    Let’s not pretend that the college rule is perfect. I have seen a number of incidences where a player was clearly leading with his shoulder, not his head, and still got flagged, and then after review it was announced the call was confirmed.

    How about an NHL-style penalty box for helmet-to-helmet hits, and the offender’s team has to play 10-on-11 for 2 minutes?

  36. aljack88 says: Sep 14, 2016 5:47 PM

    “….I don’t like the targeting rule in the pros because when a player ducks when heading over the middle and gets hit head to head it will always be the defenders fault…”
    ===============================
    Marshall and Stewarts’ hits had nothing to do with a player ducking.

  37. JSpicoli says: Sep 14, 2016 5:53 PM

    Why did Daniel Stern have more cajones than Goodell?

  38. bassplucker says: Sep 14, 2016 5:55 PM

    Not of fan of how the targeting rule has affected the college game. At all. Maybe this year with it being reviewable it will change but what I saw last year was the outcome of way too many games being way too heavily influenced by the arbitrary ejections of players who sometimes were maliciously targeting but other times make an honest mistake or what in the old days would have been called a solid football hit.

  39. mmack66 says: Sep 14, 2016 6:18 PM

    The NFL should also look into the attempted cheating by the Broncos when they got caught 3 times with too many men on the field. No telling how many times they have gotten away with that. Judging by their other serial cheating, it’s probably years worth.

  40. jaxbeachsurfshop says: Sep 14, 2016 6:38 PM

    It’s not that the NFL has to be perfect… It’s not that they make a million mistakes. It’s that they refuse to acknowledge them and fix their mistakes.

  41. PFT loves the Steelers says: Sep 14, 2016 6:47 PM

    This from the same guy that defended Shazier’s clear helmet to helmet on Goo Bernard, claiming it was legal (it wasn’t). That was possibly the worst hit I’d seen in years, yet all the talk was centered on Burfict grazing Antonio Brown with his shoulder. Shameful.

    Fwiw, I agree. There’s no place for intentional helmet to helmet hits of any kind in football. “Lined up” or not.

  42. broncosrchamps says: Sep 14, 2016 6:49 PM

    I like the idea of is you get a personal foul it’s either 4 plays in the penalty box, or 2 plays in the box depending on how serious the ref thinks it is. If you get 3 in one game of any combination you get ejected.

    Remember though in that game panthers committed 2 really bad personal fouls, one was spearing after the whistle had blown.

  43. natevidlak says: Sep 14, 2016 6:57 PM

    Hello? Mcfly? They do. It’s called spearing. It’s just an ejection. Most officials and fans have forgotten this

  44. natevidlak says: Sep 14, 2016 6:57 PM

    Not an ejection

  45. ktfulmer says: Sep 14, 2016 7:02 PM

    Let’s adopt the most maligned and ill understood rule in high school and college. That seems like a great idea. #floriologic

  46. shaggytoodle says: Sep 14, 2016 7:04 PM

    aljack88 says:
    Sep 14, 2016 5:47 PM
    Marshall and Stewarts’ hits had nothing to do with a player ducking.
    __________

    I didn’t say they were, but if you do watch college football every Saturday for the past few seasons, you have seen plenty of examples of why it bad for the pros, and have some understanding of why I am against it.

  47. jag1959 says: Sep 14, 2016 7:24 PM

    “College football has a “targeting” rule that mandates ejection when a player engages in a know-it-when-you-see-it effort to use the helmet as a weapon against a defenseless player; the NFL doesn’t.”

    College football usually knows a catch when they see one too; the NFL doesn’t. It has gotten to the point where many of us are starting to doubt the integrity of the call on a catch or a spot but we are going to give Blandino the right to make an ejection call from the bunker under Park Ave based on his ‘interpretation’ of intent?

  48. returntoexcellence says: Sep 14, 2016 7:30 PM

    If they adopt this rule (and I don’t think they should) than they are going to have to expand the roster limit. College teams have like 90+ guys on their rosters and plenty of bodies to fill spots should someone be ejected. NFL has 53 and not all dress for the game. An injury or two and a ticky tack “targeting” penalty and you may not have the personnel to fill the position that needs to be filled.

  49. melikefootball says: Sep 14, 2016 7:37 PM

    The sad fact the NFL has to many rules and the different crews just aren’t consistent on what that crew likes to call. We see to many helmet to helmets and really when and what do they choose has a penalty. They have enough trouble on roughing the passer. They have enough trouble on catch no catch.

  50. TheBrownswillstinkagain says: Sep 14, 2016 7:54 PM

    Becuz the NFL is run by dumb people is the simple answer

  51. sopadegato says: Sep 14, 2016 8:04 PM

    I’m sorry, but the Carolina element in this is hilarious. Nobody is as insufferably arrogant when they win, or as salty when they lose.

  52. factpurveyor says: Sep 14, 2016 8:06 PM

    Why is the NFL still hiding the PSI information that was collected during the 2015 season?

  53. usdcoyotesfan says: Sep 14, 2016 8:21 PM

    Don’t forget nobody would’ve been ejected Thursday night, because targeting penalties don’t apply to runners.

  54. maverick2560 says: Sep 14, 2016 9:08 PM

    I’m shocked at the little notice that the hit from the Giants safety
    on Elliot has received. That’s the kind of intentional hit that needs to
    be stopped.
    I know Elliot is the running back but the safety knowingly targeted his head. We have to stop that. I love defensive, physical games. I hate when you see a receiver touched or boxed out and defensive interference is called, but you can’t have a guy running 7 yards and jumping into a running back leading with his helmet as a weapon.
    The NFL refs need to refocus ….the little violations always seem to be called, however , when you see a brutal hit its not called.

  55. lukarwarrior says: Sep 14, 2016 9:58 PM

    Because the targeting penalty in college sucks. The NFL should never adopt that horrible rule.

  56. bkostela says: Sep 15, 2016 8:38 AM

    aljack88 says:
    Sep 14, 2016 5:47 PM
    “….I don’t like the targeting rule in the pros because when a player ducks when heading over the middle and gets hit head to head it will always be the defenders fault…”
    ===============================
    Marshall and Stewarts’ hits had nothing to do with a player ducking.
    ______________________

    Marshall launched.

    Cam ducked into Stewart.

  57. ajames35 says: Sep 15, 2016 11:06 AM

    usdcoyotesfan says:
    Don’t forget nobody would’ve been ejected Thursday night, because targeting penalties don’t apply to runners.
    —-
    Presumably this was a joke comment, because literally the opposite is true for the 2 fined hits by Stewart and Marshall – both were after a pass. The other most criticized head shots also were after a pass or during a sack, as well. None were during a run.

  58. bartman1156 says: Sep 15, 2016 11:16 AM

    Why don’t we just give them all a participation trophy and call it a day?

  59. clavisra says: Sep 15, 2016 2:57 PM

    Egregious disregard for another player’s safety should result in ejection. Yes.

    Such circumstances are already rare, but having that rule and enforcing it would make them even more rare, and, perhaps more importantly, get reckless players to take a different mindset in their approach to the game. That difference in mentality will have the biggest effect.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!