The ruling on the one-game suspension imposed by the league on Bengals safety George Iloka should be coming any minute now. Regardless of whether hearing officer Derrick Brooks overturns or reduces the discipline, a suspension should never have been implemented in the first place.
Iloka’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Steelers receiver Antonio Brown merits a fine, but not a suspension. Indeed, at least six other players in the past few weeks have committed infractions that were as bad if not worse than Iloka’s. Each of them — from Packers linebacker Jake Ryan to Rams linebacker Blake Countess to Broncos safety Darian Stewart to Packers tight end Richard Rodgers to Browns safety Jabril Peppers — received a $24,309 fine.
For Iloka, a suspension would be more than 10 times more costly, stripping him of a $235,000 game check and a $31,250 per-game roster bonus.
But the league put P.R. over precedent (as it always does), handing out suspensions as a reaction to the violence and injuries that occurred during a stand-alone game about which plenty in the media were wringing their hands and/or gnashing their teeth.
Folks, it’s football. The hits are unfortunate and in many cases avoidable, but they happen. And there’s a very real disconnect between the attitudes toward those kinds of hits from those who cover the sport and those who consume it.
If you don’t believe that, wait and see what happens if/when the NFL keeps changing the fundamental nature of the game. Eventually, someone will start a league that embraces the hits that the NFL now tries to shun. Players will sign up for an old-school football league without hesitation, and plenty of fans who lament football players not being allowed to play football the way they used to play football will flock to a version of the sport that doesn’t shy away from the kind of contact that used to be commonplace on Sundays and Monday nights.