Confusion continues regarding legal, illegal hits

On October 17, a series of big hits forced the NFL, which wants to “enhance” the season from 16 to 18 games, to take steps aimed at limiting certain hits against certain players in certain types of conditions.

The concept is simple.  Generally speaking, players in defenseless postures (most importantly, those who are catching a pass and those who are throwing one) can’t be hit in the head or with the head.  Though greatly complexity resides in the margins, the basic rule can be summarized that easily.

For a variety of reasons, the league’s message hasn’t really taken.  In some respects, the league hasn’t communicated effectively the things that the rules allow and forbid.  Also, the league’s more lenient handling of infractions like cheating (Spygate II) and fighting (Johnson-Finnegan I) has created a sense of inconsistency regarding the league’s zeal in enforcing the rules.  To make matters worse, some in the media have done a poor job of drawing the line between legal and illegal hits.

Then there’s the reality that players generally have resisted — and in Pittsburgh loudly — the league’s enhanced enforcement methods.  But much of the complaints are inaccurate, primarily because the players refuse to comprehend the rules, or because they choose to ignore them.

And now the virus is spreading beyond Pittsburgh.

Earlier this week, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said that Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been “red-flagged” by the league, an accurate observation given that Harrison:  (1) has violated the rules multiple times; and (2) has said repeatedly that he won’t change his ways.  Now, Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson has supplied a sound bite that speaks more to the question of whether Harrison is being targeted unfairly.

I don’t think a tenth of that is fair to him,” Johnson tells Alex Marvez of in reference to the $125,000 in fines imposed on Harrison for four separate incidents during the 2010 season.

Johnson’s perspective possibly has been skewed by his experiences.  Marvez reports that, since the start of the 2009 season, the officials failed on 11 of 12 occasions to throw a flag in response to an illegal hit on Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco.

As a result, Flacco doesn’t care about fines imposed after the fact; he wants flags thrown when flags are merited.  “If it is a penalty, that’s all I want,” Flacco told Marvez. “I don’t want them to get fined a week afterward.  I’ve gotten hit in the head and we haven’t had any roughing-the-passer calls.  There’s been several over the past couple of years and we don’t get penalties. . . .  I just hope it gets called evenly both ways.”

As to the Ravens defense, coach John Harbaugh has sounded far more reasonable that his counterpart in Pittsburgh when talking about one of his players.

“He’s just as physical as he’s ever been,” Harbaugh told Marvez regarding linebacker Ray Lewis.  “But he’s been doing it within the rules, I think out of respect for the guys he’s been going against.”

That’s the thing that often gets lost in this discussion.  Though the league admits the connection between expanding the season and increasing the enforcement methods for illegal hits, the fact that these illegal hits can injure players is irrelevant to the total number of games played.  If players spent more time reflecting on the purpose of these rules and less time on complaining about the impact on their ability to deliver crippling hits, maybe the players would simply commit to adhering to the rules.

Until that happens, the issue will continue to provide a distraction, especially as more fines (and maybe suspensions) are used to effect change.

70 responses to “Confusion continues regarding legal, illegal hits

  1. Flacco and Rodgers definately fail to get the “Brady” calls on a regular basis…

    Well I’ve always respected Steelers fans, after all this whining it makes me think there is a new generation of Steelers fans who are as big of whiners as Vikings fans! Not saying Goodell is right but the crying will not help, and while Hines Ward was dead on about the 18 game season in regards to safety, the rest of the whining is falling on deaf ears.

  2. Perhaps, Mr. Florio, it’s the fleet of NFL players who have actually played the game for most of thier lives, are experts of the game, who DO understand perfectly well what is & isn’t a “fair” hit & are all saying the same thing…that this is wrong. Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s really you, who spent your life in a book studying law (not playing sports), who doesn’t have a clue about how the game should be played. The chorus of media all singing the tune of Godell’s propoganda is so obvious to anyone paying attention. Why, why even go through the motions of making yourself seem so rediculously stupid if not for the reason of monetary compensation???

  3. Where’s the confusion?

    If you play for the Steelers, it’s most likely illegal.
    If you play for anyone else, it’s no problem.

    Nothing confusing about that.

  4. Bottom line: The NFL doesn’t want anything to happen that negatively affects the bottom line. It’s not a sport, it’s a business.

  5. No one has complained about Harrison or any other Steeler being fined for illegal helmet-to-helmet hits or for spearing players with his helmet. The problem stems from Harrison being fined for legal hits in which the film and still photos show he did not lead with his helmet and where he did not hit opponents in the head.

    Mike Tomlin has made abundantly clear that he expects his players to stay within the rules–as you well know. But since Harrison is being fined regardless, it is causing confusion and tension–not only with the Steelers but now among other players.

    It’s not a matter of a virus spreading. It’s simply that players like Suggs and Johnson are smart enough to look at still photos and film footage and truthful enough to speak up about what they see. That sets them apart from sportswriters with ties to networks that have lucrative contracts with a league hell-bent on softening the pass rush as part of their 18-game master plan.

    Joe Flacco is right–and he’s not the only one. Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger, and a lot of other QBs and receivers (like Hines Ward) have taken blows to the head and received concussions with nary a flag thrown. Yet other marquee QBs can simply have a nose tackle like Casey Hampton stumble in their direction and draw a 15-yard penalty. (The NFL regrets the error.) And James Harrison can get flagged and fined for making a textbook tackle.

    It’s unfortunate sportswriters don’t have the ethics (cojones?) to speak up honestly on these inequities. But at least it appears the players are willing to do it.

  6. The complexity has come solely from the NFL leadership. These particular rules have not changed for some time but now all of a sudden there is a problem. Even pretending that the majority of these fined hits were illegal (most were borderline at worst) the league has not said anything until this October. The NFL has condoned these hits for a long time and has conditioned the players to play hard. Now, with no rule change, legal hits are now being viewed as illegal. That is the league’s fault, not the players. The league is confused, the refs are confused, and undoubtedly some of the players are confused…but the players are the only ones held responsible. The rules are written poorly on purpose, that way the league can do exactly what it has done this year…change their interpretation to fit whatever circumstances they want to impose.

  7. Florio continues in his role as mouthpiece for the league. It began with the personal conduct policy, and now this.

    This whole “Players better shut up if they know what’s good for them!” slant to every post regarding this issue is becoming tiresome.

  8. Florio, the NFL is materially changing the game we all grew up loving.

    That’s the issue.

    The James Harrison Rule is wrong for football… it has gotten along without it just fine.

    People like you want to change the game for the worse, not for the better.

  9. Just put Flags on everybody an play TOUCH ball. Flacco is right I have seen him get smacked on the helmet and no flag and ref looking too. So if Flacco gets hurt on the play what the HELL good is a DAMN FINE four days later? The NFL needs to get it right and equal or drop the whole damn thing.

  10. I have to tell you Mike, I used to really love this website, and still do for informational purposes. However, your continued misguided harping on the Steelers is really turning me off.

    I get that you don’t think James Harrison is playing within the rules, and you seem to believe its intentional on his part. However, I believe you’re overlooking several key facts, whether intentionally or not.

    1. Look at the Harrison hit on Fitzpatrick. Not late. Did NOT lead with the helmet. Did not slam the quarterback to the ground. Did not hit him in the head. Flag, 25k fine. There’s pictures on the internet of the ref reaching for the flag before the ball was even out of the guy’s hand.

    2. Harrison hit on Campbell of the Raiders. Official call on the field was “put all of his weight on the quarterback.” I would like you, or anybody else, to indicate where in the rulebooks that is deemed an illegal act.

    3. Look at the Ryan Clark hit a few weeks ago against the Raiders. He hit a guy, who had possession of the ball at the time, in the back with his shoulder. Indisputable. Flagged for unnecessary roughness, 15 yards. Again, why is that illegal, when he neither struck the receivers head nor lead with his own?

    4. Other NFL players are now stepping up and saying that James Harrison is being targeted and called for penalties and fines that are not justified. I realize you talk NFL for a living, but these guys play it. When the Ravens are talking in defense of the Steelers, there’s something going on.

    5. Plays similar to, or worse than, these previously mentioned hits are not being called whenever they’re being committed against the Steelers. Hines Ward got knocked out of the game against the Patriots on a blatant shot to the head while defenseless. Happened in the endzone against the Saints as well. Roethlisberger got twisted around and jumped on by numerous players last week after he was already sacked, resulting in an injury, but no flag was thrown, and no fine was levied.

    6. Everything I’ve said has been factual, not opinions. I will openly admit I am a Steeler fan, but it’s hard to debate the validity of facts when there’s evidence supporting them.

  11. This was not a problem until this year, directly related to the desired expansion to 18 games. Players don’t change the way they play from one year to the next, when they have been coached that way for years. Harrison does’t go from MVP to a player that hits illegally every game. Sorry, I don’t buy it.

    Head hunting has always been illegal. It’s not the players’ fault if the league has been inconsistent in dealing with it. So now, the league has everyone confused, including the players, coaches and media. Their inconsistent treatment of handing out these fines has compounded the problem.

    It is the league’s fault for this mess. This issue is getting more coverage than the actual games.

  12. Can’t seem to find one football fan that agrees with you Florio.

    Just watched Oregon’s defensive lineman plant Oregon State’s QB as he was throwing the ball. He buried his facemask in the guys chest, wrapped him up, and landed on top of him with full force.

    In short, an all around great football play!

    In the NFL it would have been 15 yard personal foul and $25,000 fine (or $75,000 if your name is James Harrison).

  13. I can barely comprehend the arrogance of someone who doesnt even play the game (Florio) telling players whats actually best for them and the game!

  14. I don’t know how many articles you can churn out that say the same exact thing and still get hits, but you really ought to think about 1) either writing about something else or 2) mix it up a little. Everyone gets that you think anyone, whether they be members in the media or players or coaches or fans, must either be idiots or cannot possibly have read the rules. There is ambiguity in the rules, for all of your insinuations, particularly in the hitting of quarterbacks. You can’t lunge at his knees or at his head, and you also can’t put your helmet into his chest. And since you’re not allowed to trip them or bring them down by the facemask or horse collar them, it has become really limited in what exactly you can do. Apparently pile driving them headfirst into the ground is legal, like what happened to vince young against the steelers. So I guess the moral is that you can slam their head into the ground as long as you don’t use your helmet to make it happen. That ought to promote player safety.

  15. This is football. I hope in the offseason, the new CBA agrees that the league should not be changing the game.

    Boxing would be a lot safer if there were no head shots too.

    This is football, people get hurt. There is an intimidation factor that is slowly being removed from defensive players. Ronnie Lott, by today’s standards, would probably have upwards of $250,000 in fines this season alone.

    The league should automatically hold out anyone who gets a a concussion for 1-week. They should also force players to wear the safest head gear possible. (I believe Nike has a better helmet than Schutt, but the league doesn’t make the helmet mandatory because they have a contract with Schutt. $$$ over safety)

    Fine people for violent and malicious hits, but for Godsake, allow defenders to go after the QB. Things happen so fast, there’s just not enough time to think about hitting him high/hitting him low/moving my helmet to the side so that I lead with my shoulder.

  16. The fact of the matter is the “big hit” doesnt cause long term brain trauma… If Florio or the NFL actually read articles on brain trauma, you would know that the effects of multiple hits over and over and over is what causes brain trauma… Check out Chris Nowinskis Sports Institute study on it. How can a player aim for the chest of a receiver but when that receiver ducks his head, the defender gets penalized… C’mon man. if all these defenders are coming out saying a issue isnt right, maybe the NFL should look into that also instead of fining a guy 25,000 for a tackle… but its same penalty to fight and throw blows?? yeah that makes NFL look real good..

  17. I never thought I would say this, but the NFL needs to take a page from NASCAR. NASCAR was killing their “sport”with all the ridiculous penalties and rules. They were also really pissing off all the drivers because they couldn’t race the way they wanted. Sound familiar?

    This past season they simply said “Have at it, boys”. Now, NASCAR has never been more popular and the drivers are no longer disgruntled because of the ridiculous restrictions. And this is all after NASCAR actually DID have one of their all time greats die in action, as opposed to all these “what if’s” and hypothetical scenarios the NFL is desperately leaning on to support their ridiculous rules.

  18. Still a hypocrite. No comments about Bills players trying deliberately to injure a player that is down by twisting the ankle because that player is a Steeler and it is Roethlisberger

    Florio, any argument you make about player safety is BS! You care about the safety of Steeler opponents but not the Steelers.

    When you first started this website, you were pure and genuine in your observations – going after the NFL when you felt it was needed. Now you’re just another megaphone crony mouthpiece for Goodell. I guess the money got to you and it’s hard to give it up.

    Florio if you’re wondering what that feeling is up your butt, it’s the hand of Goodell using you as his puppet.

  19. “For a variety of reasons, the league’s message hasn’t really taken.”

    You list several reasons why but you egregiously omit the main reason why the NFL’s message hasn’t taken:


    There are AT LEAST 10-15 hits in each and every game that are equal to or worse than ANY of James Harrison’s, yet he is pretty much the ONLY player who is getting flagged and fined.

    Start applying the rules to EVERYONE and the Steelers fans will shut up.

    There is still a focal majority who think the changed stance on what are legal hits sucks and is bad for the game, but that’s an entirely different issue.

  20. @ majikbullet

    and where are you from? who is ur favorite team??? steeler fans arent whinning as u put it… we just voice opinions when one of the players on team we support is being unjustly penalized and fined… which could cause victory.. it caused one of ikes few ints for a td to be taken back with that “penalty” on campbell.. re watch the hits to cribbs and massaqoui.. one ducked his head and cribbs even said it was a good hit… so what exactly are you talkin about

  21. It’s not that the virus is spreading beyond Pittsburgh. Others team’s players have been saying the same thing since the beginning of this mess, even though it’s hard to tell that by reading this site.

    While it’s nice to seen you FINALLY acknowledge that the complaints go well beyond the Steelers, it still amazes me that you can think this issue is as cut-and-dry as you apparently do.

    Calling these types of penalties is always going to have some level of objectivity to it because referees are humans. The calls and non-calls have been inconsistent since the crack-down, which I’ve yet to see you acknowledge.

    That’s the root of the problem.


  22. Florio, even you dont understand the rule. It has nothing to do with the head. You cannot touch a player as they are catching a pass. See Dunta Robinson and Desean Jackson. Thats as clean a hit as you will ever see, but Robinson got fined. The truth is if you hit a player too hard you are getting fined. The NFL should get sued. You cant fine a player for doing their job too well

  23. Mike, you’re a master at attracting readers and often play devil’s advocate. But here you’ve got the same three guys who glom onto every Steelers post babbling nonsense … and more than 20 people so far making intelligent comments. Seems like on this issue you’d do better by playing to the smart crowd.

    Reading the excellent post from deesh138, it’s difficult to believe you can’t look at the game film and see Harrison has been fined for at least two legal hits. I don’t think Goodell is out to get the Steelers. He just needed a “Watch out or we’ll make your life hell, too” example to hold up for the rest of the league. By being outspoken, James volunteered for the part.

    Bill Polian isn’t the only guy who’s said the league will go to 18 games and that will mean changing the way the game is played. The owners have convinced themselves that if the boys play nice, they can take a 12.5 percent increase in regular season games … and won’t need more money, health care, or substantive increase in manpower. Can’t believe the Florio pre-corporate readers keep talking about–the one who didn’t mind spearing sacred cows–is just ignoring that story.

  24. Florio: Do we actually know whether or not the crackdown on “illegal” hits is actually reducing concussions? Is there any data that can be gathered to try to determine this?

    Sure, it means you’d actually have to do some real journalistic work and gather facts instead of just re-hashing your same opinion over and over, but it would be interesting to know if all of this confusion is actually having a positive effect.

    As a Steelers fan, I know Hines Ward, Will Allen, Mewelde Moore, Matt Spaeth, and Isaac Redman have all gotten concussions after the crackdown.

  25. “If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own…. For if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”

    james baldwin

  26. #joetoronto says: Dec 4, 2010 5:01 PM

    “Oh God, here we go again. Lets hear it, Squealer fans.”

    Obviously you haven’t noticed you’re in the minority here – a minority of one actually.

    But don’t let that stop you from your transparent “bash anything Steelers” agenda. You’re not the first.

  27. I think most people know this is a ridiculous issue, as most of the fines are not warranted or grossly inflated. However, if you really want to “fix” this issue, it starts with the league and the refs. You say that bigger fines are needed to deter players. That thinking is so flawed, I don’t know where to begin. If the league had full-time officials that applied the rules consistently, this would be a non-issue. If a player gets a flag every time he does something (regardless of whether he thinks its right or wrong) he is going to stop very quickly. Apply the rule consistently and equally with FLAGS and the problem disappears.

  28. @Florio – you better watch your recorded episodes of “The View” on your DVR tomorrow night. Wouldn’t want you to get offended by the sight of grown men hitting each other violently in the Steeler-Raven game.

    But you should be happy. The poster boy for the overly sensitive NFL watching crowd is on the next night – Giselle Brady will be trying to protect his new fingernail polish from getting smudged by those nasty Jets

  29. @ineptguy6 …

    Agree with you about applying flags consistently and equally if you want to deter illegal hits … but first the officials have to know what is and isn’t a penalty. The crew in the Raiders game were coming up with some creative new penalties of their own. And it’s small comfort to the Vikes that the NFL later acknowledged blowing calls in that game–as they acknowledged the blown roughing call against Casey Hampton in ours.

    As mborz says, the number of concussions hasn’t decreased since this nonsense began … but then again, it didn’t increase before this nonsense began. The commissioner doesn’t care about concussions or player safety. If he did, the concussion issue would have been addressed looong ago–when Merrill Hoge brought post-concussion syndrome to the forefront. This, like everything else the league does, is about MONEY.

  30. Ok, this is not brain surgery. The refs absolutely suck! No one with half a brain is going to argue that.

    However, I’d like to throw out perhaps what the refs are seeing sometimes. The rule says you can’t lead with your head. Harrison lead with his head for sure on the Fitz hit. Don’t give me the crap about taught to tackle that way! First of all, if more players actually TACKLED as opposed to HITTING-think about it, there’s a big difference-there would be less injuries (more than likely). Tackling involves actually trying to wrap up the ball carrier, not just lower the shoulder.

    As for the head thing, Harrison often leads with the top of his helmet; that is I believe, what the league calls leading with the helmet. This is true especially when he’s not making a concerted effort to wrap him up. I think if he would just look up to where he’s going, just seeing that facemask perpendicular to the ground would end some of these call. I despise the Steelers because they whine so much but I will say that not all of the hits should have been fined. Just some thoughts…

  31. The fines are also going to cost Harrison defensive player of the year. Even if he deserves it at the end of the year, he’ll get snubbed in favor of Clay Matthews who was basically crowned after 3 weeks.

    Not many people know this because most of the talk surrounding him concerns his fines, but he’s having a better year than Matthews, or pretty much any other defensive player in the league outside Asante Samuel.

  32. One thing is for sure…this season can offically put to rest all of the crybabies that claimed the Steelers got preferential treatment from the officials.

    Even the Steelers most bitter rivals are now going on record that the Steelers are getting screwed.

  33. 1. Just because Florio agrees with the league does not mean he is the league’s stooge. Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible for two individuals to form the same opinion independently of each other.

    2. It’s actually possible that illegal hits are not distributed evenly around the league. To suggest that James Harrison’s hits are illegal is not automatically an anti-Steelers bias. Promise.

  34. “To make matters worse, some in the media have done a poor job of drawing the line between legal and illegal hits.”

    That would never happen here, right?

    [ crickets ]

  35. the concept isn’t “simple” Mikey … the Austin Collie hit against the Eagles should have been a fumble & not a penalty, Ryan Clark hitting a guy in the back, up around the shoulders, against the Raiders & getting a penalty for it, there are others, …as long as these referees DON”T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY ARE SEEING, & there is instant replay in these stadiums & for TV this is going to continue to be a problem that at some point, of one these calls WILL affect the outcome of a game, & IF it’s a playoff game or the SBowl, then the S will really hit the fan, IF it comes to that, maybe that’s what it will take, to embarrass the NFL to get this thing under control. The one sidedness of all these rule changes, that favopr the offense & lead to the defense feeling the only way they can be effective, is to jar the ball out of recievers hands, … maybe slowing down the passing game & legalized holding would be a step in the right direction.

  36. If you keep commenting on this nbc is going to terminate your contract..because you clearly are just as lost as Anderson and Goodell on this issue and continue to be like a blind squirrel looking for a nut

  37. @ majikbullet

    Whining would be complaining about some team being more aggressive than the Steelers and complaining they are being “too mean”

    That what the Browns fans did. That’s what the Pats fans did when Brady was hit two years ago and that what the Bengals fans did when Rivers got his jaw broke.

    We WANT hitting. We want agressive play. We want to see men play football and make impactful contact and get guys down to the ground instead of two hand touch.

    If you think that’s whining, I think you must be playing on the wrong side of the field and better go powder your nose and make sure you get those Barbara Streisand tickets.

  38. @ joetoronto: You are just simply an IDIOT, and clearly a STEELER basher. Crawl back to your hole.

    @ treadstone06 says


    Please review the play from one of the many clips available on the internet. Harrison’s facemask comes in contact with Fitzpatrick’s chest, not the crown of his helmet. In fact, most of the hits he’s been flagged and fined for do not involve the crown or top of his helmet. His tackle on Fitzpatrick was absolutely textbook. It wasn’t a blow up hit – it was text book. All of the ESPN analysts, who mostly are comprised of former players, all agreed the hit was legit and the call was BAD, BAD, BAD. The call didn’t stink quite as much as the 25k fine.

    Now, in contrast, let’s look at what God-ell’s lame ass VP of Operations (yes Ray – can I get you some coffee Mr God-ell or help you wipe when you r off the pot – Anderson) tried to legitimize in his BS video released on October 21st. The one blow up hit involves Ray Lewis hitting a truly defenseless and unsuspecting Jets receiver across the middle. He leads into his explanation by stating “a great hit by a great player”. WTF? That’s is some serious bias and represents the true CONFLICT of INTEREST by Roger and his cronies for how they are IMPLEMENTING a rule that nobody clearly gets nor is consistently enforced. The hit, if you must know involves Ray Ray using his shoulder, head — YES HIS EFFIN HEAD AND HELMET — to blow up the Jets receiver. He completely flattens him and although he didn’t hit him in the head or neck, he did use his helmet due to the speed of the play, his momentum, etc.

    I am tired of these lame ARS fans who spout out about this issue. The league, the officials, the owners, former and current players all need to be part of the solution. The hits on Brees and Fitzpatrick were LEGITIMATE, not illegal and should NEVER have been fined.

    Helmet to Helmet – FINED
    Helmet to Helmet – FINED with clear INTENT to INJURE – FINED AND SUSPENDED (eg., launching into someone’s head with your helmet/head)

    Helmet or facemask to the chest, shoulder, lower abdominal area — NOT PENALIZED, NOT FINED, NOT SUSPENDED.

    Thanks for the intelligent Ravens and other fans who continue to realize the manner in which these DONKEYS are making up and enforcing the “NEW” rules as they go, is completely BOGUS.

    At the end of the day, their agenda is clear. More games, fewer hits, more offense, expanded market (global) and well but of course, more revenue for the league and owners.

    Wake up Joe and Wake up treadstone06 and get your head out of your dark hole.

    Florio – go SUK an egg and learn how to write without an agenda. Just the facts dude.

  39. @treadstone06 …

    What refs see is subjective and occurs in real time. But the league uses film when deciding what to fine, so Goodell has no excuse for fining legal hits–as he’s done at least twice with Harrison.

    The definition of what’s legal and illegal hasn’t changed. But where the league recently used footage of hard hits to promo games and rewarded Harrison for playing exactly as he does now … today they’re trying to condition defenders to pull up. Why? It may have something to do with the threat of Congressional oversight because of post-concussion syndrome. If so, the concern is FINANCIAL, not humanitarian. The number of concussions and their consequences haven’t changed in the last five years. Only the threat of government oversight and potential for liability have changed.

    But the timing seems more skewed to negotiations for an 18-game season. The majority of players vehemently oppose increasing regular-season playing time while decreasing pay and cutting health benefits. Somehow slowing down defenses is supposed to magically result in fewer injuries. Goodell, Polian, and others have said as much in recent interviews.

    @fmwarner …

    We know it’s not personal. When it’s no longer effective for him to make an example of Harrison, Goodell will target someone else. And Florio’s love/hate for any team or player runs in direct proportion to what will result in the most page hits.

  40. fmwarner said: 1. Just because Florio agrees with the league does not mean he is the league’s stooge. Believe it or not, it’s entirely possible for two individuals to form the same opinion independently of each other.

    2. It’s actually possible that illegal hits are not distributed evenly around the league. To suggest that James Harrison’s hits are illegal is not automatically an anti-Steelers bias. Promise.


    Yours is an easy game to play. Watch me.

    1. Just because people have come to the conclusion that Florio is a league stooge does not mean that they came to their conclusion based solely on the fact that both Florio and the NFL support the heavy fines.

    2. I’ve never seen anyone here suggest that the fines should be evenly distributed. What most people (including me) are wanting to see is consistency as to when they are applied. The fact that Harrison is getting so many fines when others make similar hits without being fined may not be automatic proof that Harrison is being targeted, but it sure is more compelling than anything you just typed. Promise.

  41. Florio – once again the simplest facts elude you.

    The Commissioner sent a DVD to every NFL team that makes the league’s policy perfectly clear.

    When Ray Lewis tackles someone – it’s OK.

    When James Harrison tackles someone – it’s a blatant violation of the rules. (Sorry James about those two poor starving children whose college fund is being threatened.)

  42. Hey NFL defense players. Good news!

    You know when that 250 lb running back lowers his helmet and crashes into your head and you get a concussion?

    Don’t worry, Dr Roger Goodell assures you that there will be no long term effects because you play on the defense.

  43. All in all, I agree with Florio’s well-reasoned post above. And while I have on occasion been critical of the league on consistency grounds, there is no doubt in my mind that Commissioner Roger Goodell and executive VP of football operations Ray Anderson are intensely committed to player safety.

    The fact that there are at most two NFL teams—primarily the Steelers, and to a lesser extent the Ravens—out of 32 continuously bellyaching about the enhanced enforcement of longstanding rules against head-related hits tells us all we need to know. Wouldn’t it be a cruel twist of irony if a James Harrison, a Terrell Suggs, or a Jarret Johnson lay motionless this Sunday night on the M&T Bank Stadium field after sustaining a head-related hit? Diagnosis: Cervical spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia.

    Take this to the bank: You wouldn’t hear a pin drop, either from the 71,000 fans in attendance, or the dozen or so PFT Steelers fans who, even in the face of incontrovertible facts, continue to argue ad nauseum that their players are being treated unfairly by the league.

  44. How the hell do u write an article talkign about confusion and not even ONCE note the refs are confused too…..

    Why do u not point out the refs throwing flags for head to head on players in a running back posture, when it is a LEGAL hit.

    Why do u not point out peyton mannings helmet getting SLIGHTLY touched by a FINGER and a flag being thrown but brett favre being chopped gets no flag at all.

    The refs are more clueless than us. as We know the rules and yell and scream when they throw flags that make no sense ACCORDING to the rules.
    There are BLATANT holds and they let it go, BUT if one of these other rules gets touched and includes people like peyton or brady it is INSTANTLY called.

  45. Not to mention when a player aims for the chest and the impact makes his body slide up the other resulting in helmet to helmet contact…..

    That should not ever be a flag. There was no intention to do it. it is called PHYSICS, crap happens when to forces collide.

    Whats next a guy gets hit so hard he flips through the air, his feet hit some players u throw a flag for kicking?

  46. Correction: “You wouldn’t hear a pin drop, … ” obviously should have read, “You wouldn’t hear a sound, … .”

    Sorry, it’s late. Still, I think my point is clear.

  47. This thread simplified to a single mathematical statement:

    deesh138 > Mike Florio + Roger Goodell

  48. Steelers fans need to stop whining about the illegal hits. The NFL is not going to back down on them. The players need to learn to play within the rules. His words and actions have what gotten James Harrison fined, and he will continue to because he refuses to play by the rules. When he did, he was a nobody. It wasn’t until he started laying people out that people payed him any attention. Harrison is a thug plain and simple. He won’t change the way he plays because playing by the rules doesn’t get him the big money deals.

    The league IS inconsistent when penalizing the plays. If anything, it needs to be called more. Player safety should always be the most important thing. Even though it is a full contact sport, it is a business. You can’t make money if your money makers aren’t on the field.

    People seem to forget that the “Old time” players, yeah the ones everyone keeps saying are against the new rules and think football isn’t as tough as it was in their time, are suing the NFL for health benefits because their bodies are broken and battered. As the cost of medical care skyrockets the NFL is not going to be able to afford the costs these illegal hits are going to create, which will bankrupt the league and have us all watching bowling on Sundays. Do you want that.

  49. I dont like taking shots at florio because he has a great job and gets too much flack from others but…

    This issue is pretty redic and Florio seems to be spouting off what the NFL wants.

    There are a few issues here including the refs, inconsistency with the calls and the fines. However, i think the biggest issue is with the rules themselves.

    Ask yourself did the players ask/petition the league for more rules on hitting/stricter enforcement? Sure maybe a very small handful of only offensive players have a problem with the way the game is played, but that is it. When you have every defender complaining about the changes and plenty of offensive players also not liking where the rules are going, you know its a problem,

    I remember right after the week where all the concussions happened, the NFL said players need to aim lower, at the chest. It was some former player on one of the networks who said “alls thats going to do is cause chest injuries and broken ribs”

    So now we have Harrison/Fitzpatrick hit. It was in the chest! It was a bang-bang play. The NFL is played at full speed and “wrapping up” on that kind of play is just not possible.

    Defenders cannot hit qbs in: the head, knee or below, the chin, no hands to head, no horsecoller. So hitting the chest is now illegal and will draw a fine. I know “he led with his helmet”….think about it for just a second, all the areas you cant hit the QB, then think about how fast its played. To penalize Harrison on that play is outrageous, the head will also extend further when one bends at the waist.

    When a running back runs through a hole and lowers his “shoulder” except his head drops as well (think any fullback or really any back running a dive), should the NFL count that as leading with the helmet?

    The last place an RB wants to get tackled is the knees with the ankles a close second. They will tell you that, thats how careers end. You have to let the defenders tackle somehow and somewhere, this is football, the players choose to play.

    I also think the “defenseless wr” is a bad rule. It is very arbitrary, is it only when in the air or after the wr comes back down as well? But i get that sometimes the rule actually makes the game safer. However, it gives offensive players incentives to put themselves in a defenseless spot because they know they get to either catch the ball untouched or get 15 yards.

    It is simply unrealistic to ask guys to play at 4.4 speed and then at the same time to know when a WR with 4.3 speed is defenseless or when he has regained his defenses.

    No intentional helmet to helmet, thats the good rule. Thats the easy one. But if an offensive player ducks his head either call it one him or dont call it in that situation.

    If anyone watched the game on thursday, near the end of the game Matt Schaub maybe, maybe, had a defenders hand glance over the top of his helmet and Schaub starting screaming at the refs demanding a flag, bc the NFL does have that rule. But there was NO danger from this play and i only bring it up to show how some players/positions, think they are entitled to saftey flags even when they are not in danger at all and i blame the NFL for creating that mindset.

    This is a contract sport and the players get compensated for it. No one forces the athletes to play, the elect to and get a hefty reward. Florio think COASE.

  50. Goodell claims the subject is “safety”, particularly, to the head.

    In 1967 Willie Lanier, mb of KC Chiefs, suffered a serious concussion and as a result, the Chiefs trainer made a special helmet for Lanier. Lanier never suffered another concussion in long career.

    Goodell needs to stop messing with the game and players and fix the helmets, adding a layer of absorbing material to the outside. The Chiefs were smart enough to come with a concussion “fix” over 40 yrs ago…why can’t Roger figure it out?

  51. Of course there’s confusion…The rules are being written and implemented by jackwagon LAWYERS….what else is new Florio??

  52. I disagree that there is confusion. The problem is not lack of understanding. Everyone keeps talking about 1 type of call applied to 1 person. The fact is that refs are systematically calling eronious on the whole team & ignorring fouls made by the opposing teams. Example, Kemueotu had 4 holding penalties last week after not getting 1 all year. All 4 were questionable in that any lineman on any team could get called for holding one every single play in the whole NFL if they were being held to the same standard he was last week. That’s just one example but there are numerous instances of the rules being applied differently to the Steelers this year. No, it’s not a problem of Harison or players not understanding. The problem is that (for some reason) the NFL has decided to prevent the Steelers from making it to the Super Bowl. Perhaps it’s because of Big Ben’s off season issues. Who knows why, but they are without a doubt doing everything they can to give other teams opportunities to win! I see tonights game with Baltimore as the test. I predict (at least) 4 eronious penalties against the Steelers at key points in the game & numerous no calls, no flags for real fouls commited by the Ravens….too give the Ravens a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter. I’m saying it’s not Harrison or his hits, I’m saying someone with a lot of control is cheating.

  53. Let’s face it.

    Steelers have always been dirty.

    And I’m not only talking about the bathroom dirt on Raplisburger’s knees.

    Remember the cheap shot that put Palmer out of the playoffs?

    Suspend them.

  54. @dmobey …

    Are you three? Even if the evidence didn’t show the Milledgeville woman was lying, nothing in her multiple story versions involved Roethlisberger on his knees. And Palmer said that was not a dirty hit.

    These are grownups talking about an issue that will affect every team in the league, including yours. If you can’t discuss it intelligently, please just stay in your sandbox.

  55. @Rhode Island Patriots Fan & soulbrother1 …

    What’s clear, Rhode Island, is that you are very naive and/or have tremendous disdain for the Steelers and Ravens. Neither of you are well-informed on this issue.

    I have no problem with Harrison or any other Steeler being flagged or fined for dirty hits. He was justifiably fined for his part in a vicious gang tackle of Vince Young, and for what I’d term a dirty hit on Massaquoi in the Browns game. But neither the hit on Drew Brees nor the one on Fitzpatrick involved leading with the helmet or a helmet-to-helmet hit. Since those hits didn’t involve head shots, fining them didn’t involve attempting to prevent head shots.

    So Rhode Island, you believe Roger Goodell and his lieutenants are committed to player safety and well-being? Then why didn’t the NFL commit resources to limiting concussions when the issue first began to gain widespread recognition through players like Merrill Hoge more than two decades ago? The league made no effort to design better helmets, as they’ve done in NASCAR. Nor did the league try to minimize helmet-to-helmet shots. Quite the opposite. The league went out of its way to publicize monster hits and rewarded people like James Harrison, who was named defensive MVP in 2008 for playing exactly as he does now.

    And safety is about more then concussions. Despite the near miracle research that allowed the Jets’ Dennis Byrd and the Bills’ Kevin Everett to walk again after being paralyzed in game injuries, the NFL recently cut its longtime to the Buoniconti Foundation that did the pioneering research that saved Everett. And the league is frantically trying to get out of covering players’ healthcare. Does that sound like Goodell is committed to player health and safety?

    Since the number and severity of concussions hasn’t increased in the last five years, why has lip service to the issue? Because Congress suddenly took an interest and started mumbling about Congressional oversight. The NFL needs to be perceived as doing something.

    But this isn’t really about concussions–that’s why James is being fined when no helmet-to-helmet hits are involved. This is about the leagues determination to expand to an 18-game regular season. Right now, they’re trying to negotiate an 18-percent paycut for players without providing proof that revenues have declined. Players are paid less for preseason games than for regular season. They also want to increase the number of games by 12.5 percent with no corresponding increase in pay. Players are vehemently opposed because of the increased wear and tear on their bodies and potential for shortening their careers. At minimum the union has asked that owners beef up the roster. Owners have agreed to add one man. One. Instead they’re saying players will have to change how they play.

    Translation: If you don’t hit as hard, the two extra games won’t take such a big toll.

    That is the reason for these fines. MONEY, not safety. They’re using Harrison to say “Play ball (excuse the pun) or we’ll make your life hell, too.” Why Harrison? Because he complained and made himself an easy target. It’s not personal against the Steelers. Next time it could be a Patriot or anyone else. And Rhode Island–Brady has spoken out loudly against this 18-game proposal.

    Do your homework guys. Bigger things are going on here than meet the eye.

  56. I think the NFL’s attempts at uberfairness is detracting from the game. The coaches’ challenges and booth reviews drag games out, but they do something very important: provide time for more commercial$.

    The great fact is that the NFL is run to bring revenue to the owners. When the Lombardi Trophy is awarded at the end of the Super Bowl game, who is it given to? The owner, of course, not the coach, not the captain, the owner. When the owner$ start feeling the bite, things will change.

    The drive to assure fairness is well intentioned but the NFL is all thumbs implementing it.

    I officiate track and field at both the prep and college level. I have officiated NCAA championship meets. The rule of thumb for us is, if the official is noticed, he/she isn’t doing a good job.

    I am intrigued by the question: If the NFL went to full-time officials, what kind of person would they end up with? Would the current officials move up and become full-time or move back to the college ranks.

    I think officials play too much of a role in the game today, but I don’t know what the answer is. The fans come for the violence, but how much is too much? There is no pat answer. The NFL is worried only about the bottom line and not looking too bad. I like the college game much better.

  57. @Deb

    “But neither the hit on Drew Brees nor the one on Fitzpatrick involved leading with the helmet or a helmet-to-helmet hit.”

    Really? Steelers LB James Harrison was fined $20,000 for roughing the passer—specifically, slamming helmet-first (i.e., leading with the helmet) into Saints QB Drew Brees’ back from behind after Brees threw the ball. Harrison drew another roughing-the-passer penalty—and a $25,000 fine—for “helmet contact to the chest” (i.e., leading with the helmet) of Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who, importantly, was deemed to be in a “defenseless position.” In the latter case, it was also reported that officials ruled that Harrison led with the crown of his helmet. Both acts are specifically proscribed under the “2010 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League (Official Rules of the NFL).”

    The mere fact that the NFL has to date abstained from suspending Harrison despite repeated violations is proof that, if anything, the league is showing restraint in his case and is NOT “out to get him.”

    I’m a gentleman and will therefore not refer to you as “(not) well-informed” and “very naive.” I would, however, ask that you take your own advice: Do your homework, Deb.

  58. Facts are that Steelers have played dirty for years.

    Remember the late hit aimed at Palmer’s knee in the playoffs?

    They’ve received special treatment and suddenly it looks like they’ll be treated the same as everyone else because the league is afraid of the bad publicity.

    And all the Steeler fans will whine because they think the rules still shouldn’t apply to them.


  59. @Rhode Island Patriots Fan …

    I know what the NFL said, but footage and still photos tell a different story. One photo shows the ref reaching for his flag before Harrison landed the hit on Fitzpatrick. He didn’t lead with his helmet or “spear” either of those players. I didn’t have a problem w/him being flagged for a late hit on Brees, but he was fined for an illegal hit that didn’t happen.

    When I suggested you do your homework, I simply meant to look at the Big Picture issues. Take the Steelers out of this. James is a tough player. Some of his fines have been justified, and some of his comments have been ridiculous–that’s why Goodell keyed on him. But the league’s agenda is not protecting player health and safety. If it were, post-concussion syndrome would have been addressed 25 years ago–or at least when Goodell became commissioner. It wouldn’t have taken the threat of Congressional oversight for the league to pay lip service to the issue. And the league wouldn’t be trying to cut player health benefits. Goodell wouldn’t have cut funding for the research that saved Kevin Everett’s life.

    Several owners, Bill Polian, and Goodell have said in interviews that an 18-game season will mean changing how the game is played. They think pulling up the pass rush will lessen wear and tear on players’ bodies. That’s one reason Tom Brady and others are so vocally opposed. Increasing the roster to allow for more liberal sustitutions might make a difference, but that would mean higher personnel costs, and the league won’t have it. It’s almost impossible to keep these guys healthy for a 16-game season now. They’re being asked to play 12.5 percent more regular season games–which could potentially shorten their careers–while taking a paycut. And the league is saying everything will be okay if we can convince defenses to take things a little easier? James is just the posterchild for trying to get across an unreasonable point.

    That’s all I’m trying to say, RI Pats Fan. You seem like a smart fan to me. Just remember everyone has an agenda. The league has an agenda. So does Florio. After all–his numbers go way down in the offseason.

    My agenda is making sure they don’t dilute our product. Would I love two more games? Sure. But not at the price of player safety. Not at the price of neutering the defense. I expect players to hit within the numbers and want the league to prevent helmet-to-helmet hits by flagging them when they happen–something they did not do last night. But they shouldn’t be trying to soften textbook tackles. And if teams are taking off the last two or three games now–how many will they take off in an 18-game season? Just think about it.

  60. @Rhode Island Patriots Fan


    Deb and others have pretty much said it all, but I felt the need to add one last perspective. You ARE naive, because you have the inability to see the big picture and the TRUE agenda of the NFL front office. It has NOTHING to do with really being interested in player safety. It has EVERYTHING to do with targeting specific players in the hopes it will diminish the physicality of the game and pave the way for an 18-game season, which oh by the way will potentially include teams from outside the US.

    You are NAIVE and must be soaking it up now that Brady hasn’t had his locks and socks knocked off in several games. That will change in the playoffs. Let’s see how you like the hits on your pretty boy come January. They won’t be pretty and I am actually quite certain the teams the Pats have beaten to date who will most likely be in those playoff games, will probably study the Browns-Pats film intensely.

    Back to the primary issue here, there is tremendous inconsistency in how the new “rules” are being interpreted, implemented and followed-up on post-game in the form of fines. If you can’t admit that, you’re as naive as Deb suggests and need to stay off the posts until you can keep it real.

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