NFLPA: Everybody has to get “on the boat” to cut down illegal hits

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The NFLPA held its annual pre-Super Bowl press conference in Minneapolis on Thursday afternoon with executive director DeMaurice Smith and players from the union’s executive committee in attendance.

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is one of those players and he spoke to PFT about his one-game suspension for a hit to the head on Packers wide receiver Davante Adams during the 2017 regular season. Davis disagreed with a previous fine from the league for a hit in a game against Tampa and said he felt it shouldn’t have been used as part of the criteria for suspending him, but said that one infraction can be egregious enough to trigger a suspension.

“I think the league made the right call on the suspension on that based on that hit. … The hit on Davante Adams, I took full responsibility for that,” Davis said. “It’s one of those things that has to be taken out of the game and we understand that. … It’s all about player safety. It’s all about providing a safe and fun atmosphere for guys to be able to go out there and make a living. Whenever you have stuff like that it takes away from the game.”

NFLPA president Eric Winston agreed that players are responsible for taking “better care of each other” while noting that the responsibility falls on others as well. Winston said he felt that they’ve “done almost everything they can do” to get players to understand the risks involved with illegal hits.

“Everybody else has to get on the boat,” Winston said I need to see more coaches coaching the right way and/or saying ‘I know that’s a hit you cant take. Do what you can, but I don’t want you to get fined or flagged because of this.’ I don’t feel like we’re there yet. I don’t feel like the teams are telling their own guys, ‘I understand the position you’re in.’ I think is where we need to go. Whether that’s rule changes to say that hits to the head are gonna affect the outcome of the game more. If it’s a system of draft picks with teams that are repeat offenders over a long period of time. They’re letting it happen, they’re not coaching it, they’re not trying to improve it. Everybody’s got to get on the boat on this thing.”

Seven players were suspended for on-field player safety violations during the regular season. Bengals safety George Iloka had his suspension overturned on appeal.