Brian Urlacher tees off on fines and flags

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Brian Urlacher is getting sick of the way the NFL treats defensive players.

Urlacher, the Bears linebacker, appeared on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning Thursday and ripped into the league’s policies on fines and flags.

“We don’t have a clear line of what we can do and what we cannot do,” Urlacher said. “There were some early in my career that could be fined now, but back then it was OK to do it.”

Urlacher noted that the league office and the on-field officials often don’t seem to agree on what constitutes an illegal hit.

“I got penalized against Detroit for a hit but didn’t get fined. That’s kind of frustrating, you cost your team 15 yards and a first down, and they don’t fine you, why was it illegal? I know the referees are going to call those penalties but why can’t we review those penalties?” Urlacher said. “It’s just frustrating because you don’t know what’s going to be a penalty and what’s not going to be a penalty and you’re assuming if you get a penalty you’re going to get fined. Or you don’t get a penalty and then you do get fined. I don’t understand.”

Some helmet-to-helmet contact is only helmet-to-helmet because the offensive player lowers his helmet into a defensive player who was aiming to hit him in the midsection, and Urlacher said it’s unfair that defensive players can still draw penalties for such collisions.

“When you’re tracking the ball and tracking a guy, and if he lowers his head at the last second, what can you do about that?” Urlacher asked.

Urlacher also believes the officials have a double standard for offensive and defensive players.

“When linemen take our knees out, we’re outside the box and they take our knees out, or a running back will just dive down at your knees when you’re blitzing, or the other day I saw a running back lower his head at a DB and ran him over, but that was OK — the defensive player wasn’t defenseless,” Urlacher said. “It’s very frustrating for me.”

But for all of Urlacher’s frustration, he says he doesn’t allow it to affect what he does on Sundays.

“It doesn’t change the way we play, I’ll tell you that much,” Urlacher said. “If we hit a guy and get fined, we get fined.”

44 responses to “Brian Urlacher tees off on fines and flags

  1. “When linemen take our knees out, we’re outside the box and they take our knees out, or a running back will just dive down at your knees when you’re blitzing, or the other day I saw a running back lower his head at a DB and ran him over, but that was OK — the defensive player wasn’t defenseless,”

    Key on that. It’s a valid point. This “player safety” crusade can’t just be on one side of the ball.

  2. Player safety I guess. The league does not want to see tragic injuries on the field but at the same time this is football and armor clad Roman Empire Gladiator looking guys are moving at high speeds colliding into each other looking to stop a ball carrier or separate a receiver from the ball. They are not capable of pin pointing their shots and getting the job done all simultaneously.

  3. “you’re assuming if you get a penalty you’re going to get fined. Or you don’t get a penalty and then you do get fined. I don’t understand.”
    Why is it now that a penalty costs the team yards and downs and the player $$ for what used to be just a penalty on the field?
    I understand getting a fine for something beyond a hard hit, like a fight or deliberate attempt to injure but, Urlacher is saying that he expects to be fined for nearly every flag now. This is just wrong. I don’t like where this is headed.
    “Off-sides, defense, five yards and $5,000” Enough!

  4. Unfortunately it has come to this because of a select few that intentionally try to end a players game if not career on every play.

  5. As much as I’d like to believe it doesn’t impact how defenses play. I think it does and I think it’s not the brand of football I’m used to watching. I do think football is different today because of all the fines/penalties. I can’t say it’s better and I can’t say it’s safer. I do think somebody is happy about it though, just not the fans.

  6. Watching your D play is frustrating now no matter who your team is this season…Just waiting for a flag to extend a drive.
    NFL needs to address their over-reaction this off-season.

  7. The upheaval over ill-defined flags & fines & game stoppages for review are debasing America’s favorite sport…What ever happen to just play ball!!!!

  8. Another of the league’s marquee defensive players questioning the consistency of the penalties being called?

    It’s interesting reading this here, as this column this week was promoting the theory that coaches, not the league, were responsible for the ambiguity over what constitutes a violation (and that coaches were promoting ambiguity in order to get the most physical/violent play from their teams).

  9. “Urlacher also believes the officials have a double standard for offensive and defensive players.”

    Not a Bears fan, but I couldn’t agree more. Glad someone is speaking out against it in an informed and rational manner. Be nice if the media “experts” joined in. Goodell has shown he listens to the press far, far more than he does the players or the fans.

  10. Oh wow, do you mean to tell me that Urlacher was faced with “change” in the workplace?

    I’m sure that nobody who reads this site has never experienced “change” in the workplace.

    Poor guy 🙁

  11. He’s right in what he is saying, he and Suh are playing football as they are expected to play the game at their positions. It’s the league/rules that lack consistency from game to game and from team to team.

  12. What the league needs right now is for more of these defensive players to stand up and speak up for themselves. These rules, especially the defenseless player rules, have been terrible. The league needs to seriously take a look at the way these rules are being enforced on the field.

  13. Totally agree on the review. Some 15 yard penalties (specifiaclly H2H hits and PI) should be reviewable.

    NFL officials don’t have the egos of MLB umpires and NBA refs so there’s no issue with exposing bad calls minutes later, and the game is simply too fast to regularly make real-time judgements from 10+ yards away.

  14. bengalsown says:
    Nov 3, 2011 10:09 AM
    Oh wow, do you mean to tell me that Urlacher was faced with “change” in the workplace?

    I’m sure that nobody who reads this site has never experienced “change” in the workplace.

    And when those people realize the change negatively impacts their ability to do their job effectively, they complain about it too to whoever will listen. So what’s your point?

    Only difference is he has a high-profile occupation and when he complains millions of people might be listening. But there’s nothing unusual about his reaction, especially since he’s right.

  15. Just think of it this way: Every time you knock the SNOT out of some opponent, you not only effect them for the rest of the day – but you also get a tax deduction AND you get to help some kid who needs it.

    The fines still go to the charity fund, right?

    Seems to me the penalty is the only negative and that is manageable as longs as you respond properly.

  16. I hate the Bears but have always had respect for Urlacher as a football player, he did get screwed on that helmet to hlemt flag against us. He makes a point I have wanted for a long time in making penalties reviewable. More ideally there should be refs in a booth watching on monitors and providing at least oversight to the refs on the field.

    In the time between a play finishing and the refs huddling up like they do after every call a guy in the booth can do a quick review of the play, kind of like they do for scoring plays. If the call was blatantly wrong due to a bad angle or something happening too fast on field they can tell them to pick up the flag. If the wrong call is blatant on replay it will take only a second to spot.

  17. The fines are frustrating for the players. They are used for mistakes instead of just disciplinary/safety issues. Sadly, this is what you get when lawyers are in charge of things or are the significant influence on the decision makers. They see everything as a potential lawsuit and come up with ridiculous policies/procedures. The procedures are not designed to make sense or help the game; they are simply designed to show concern and mitigate any claims made in future litigation. It’s a shame that the game is changing in this way. It will soon be unrecognizable.

  18. I think they need to stop the fines for every personal foul type penalty. Flag the rest as they should but fine only the players for an obvious/intentional headhunter type hit, cheap shots, taking a swing at a guy, etc. Those are disciplinary issues and safety concerns, the rest are mistakes that occur in a fast moving play. For the truly despicable garbage, eject them, fine them, and suspend them a minimum of 2 games. The headhunters will stop the crap on their own when they can’t play or get paid for a while–if they don’t they no longer have a career.

  19. Looks like Urlacher is facemasking Finley on the picture above, did he get called? Probably not, because just like Michael Jordan, the big stars get away with more. Quit whining! You guys are playing this game faster than ever, everything is not going to be called correctly. Maybe extend replay to helmet to helmet hits.

  20. Wheres the personal vendetta against his coach? You went off on Suh, saying his coach should help explain what he can and cannot do. Is there a trend here?

  21. This all comes back to Goodell. He is ruining the NFL. He overreacted to big hits during one Sunday last year by changing the rules midseason, but the rules are unclear and enforced arbitrarily. What is legal, what is illegal, what is fineable, what is not finable, no one knows and that is on Goodell. He reacts to the media and thinks short-term without considering long-term ramifications. The NFL is becoming less and less about play on the field, and more about reviews, penalties, fines, concussions, technicalities, everything but football. I think the average NFL game has about 10 minutes of actual action, and 2 hours and 50 minutes of commercials, replay reviews, kickoffs out of the endzone, timeouts. In my opinion, the game is slowly eroding.

  22. I am not a fan of the modern NFL. It is human pinball. I didn’t have a problem with the rule changes in favor of passing way back in 1978 as it opened the game up a LITTLE more, and allowed the WCO to develop. But then it got more and more. It reached a point where the offensive players (mostly QB’s and Receivers) didn’t have to pay nearly as much attention as they did even in the 80’s, and they were getting hurt. So the bent the rules even more in there favor, and they got more careless, and on and on it went. Now, the defense has about one single way they can tackle, which is made nearly impossible in live, fast action. Running backs can now just hurdle them, and WR are pretty much hands off until they are 5 yards from the endzone.

    I don’t want guys carted off bloodied and battered, but this is becoming uninteresting to watch, and the “unequal protection under the law” is frustrating to watch. Different calls from different officials that dramatically changes the out come of games. It seems that a teams’ success has a lot to do with how much the Bureaucracy comes down on them. If a team navigates the bureaucracy better than other teams, they’re champion.

  23. Eric Berry had a season ending injury because an offensive players hit him in the knees.

    That hit was legal according to the rules.

    So yeah, there very much is a double standard. Too bad Roger Goodell and the rest of the idiots with the competition committee don’t want to correct it.

  24. If half the folks on here that complain about Suh had him on there favorite team, they wouldnt be complaining about him being a dirty player, because your teams Defense would be better with him.

  25. Remove any of these defenseless player or hit to the head rules that cost a team 15 yards. Even penalized hits that are clean after review are being fined simply to support the refs bad call. All fines should be made after a review by league officials. Flags should be reserved for when a team is trying to gain an unfair advantage.

  26. Of course there are hits that were ok earlier in his career that would get fined now. The rules have changed. Of course there are going to be hits that cost your team a penalty that aren’t severe enough to warrant a fine. Of course there are going to be dangerous hits that aren’t seen by officials that warrant a later fine. I don’t get what is so confusing.

  27. Cant agree with Urlacher more… Roger is on a P.R. crusade and the pansy making up the “rules” never played football. Or make all the offensive players wear pink tutu’s. All is going to take is one of these “illegal hits” changes the outcome of a playoff game.

  28. Any player who complains about this has a valid point. It’s amazing to me that the league office and the officials can’t get together on what is and is not a legal hit. This is 9 Billion dollar industry these people are running and they can’t figure out the rules!
    The inconsistency is not only frustrating to the players it is affecting the whole experience of watching a game. When your team makes a great defensive play to force a 4th down only to be called for a penalty that everyone watching knows is not a penalty that can ruin the game. That’s not football, that’s a bunch of bureaucrats running around in striped shirts orchestrating the outcome of games that should be decided by the athletes. It also brings into question the integrity of the game. Why is that guy making that call? Has he got a vested interest in the outcome?

  29. Urlacher isn’t “complaining”. He’s 100% right, and I’m glad he spoke up. The game has become as frustrating to watch as it is to play. Each player needs a lawyer to be on the field with them on every snap to help interpret the ridiculous and ever-changing 9,000 page rule book containing 18,000 catch-22s.

  30. The current era of confusing rules and fine needs to/will go by the wayside. In its place, a new era of equipment and padding will emerge.

    Body pads will eliminate the hard outer shells, replacing those with carbon fiber or other flexible tough material on which to mount the padding.

    Helmets will undergo a drastic change, and we will look back on the current hard outer plastic helmets with the same regard as we do the quaint leather helmets of the early years.

    Helmets will be made with small inner pads, some type of semi rigid liner, with a covering of larger pads. The outer shell will be some kind of fabric, again like flexible carbon fiber.

    The overall objective will be to absorb much greater amounts of impact than today, without the rapid deceleration of existing technology.

    Technology solved the problems of helmets snapping drivers necks in racing (the HANS device) and the same investments in revised technology need to come to football.

    It will always be a violent sport, but technology can be made to deal with the recent, rapid awareness of the seriousness of concussions — and largely get rid of them.

  31. We finally get a Suh-less story and everyone just drags the Suh discussion into it.

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  32. Urlacher is right as rain. Its very hard to watch an NFL game on TV, cause they officals wont let them play, theres almost a penalty on every play, on every kick off and return. Why is there a penalty for blocking in the back, its not clipping, so whats the difference in blocking in the back compared to the front? A block is a block, I dont see any danger in pushing someone in the back,,doesnt hurt, not clipping,,,but it sure slows down the game. Illegal formation is another one, why call a 5yd penalty for not covering up the rt lt tackle?? And the dreaded lft tackle lined up in the backfield,,,stupid penaltys,,,,

  33. I agree with helmet to helmet on a defenseless receiver but that’s it. All the other helmet to helmet or hitting to hard calls are bull. I can’t believe the rules of the NFL are changed and done by people who never played the sport! Its only a matter of time before the NFL becomes a 2 hand touch league!

  34. Sorry, but it does not look as if Roger Goodell’s idea of fining players for helmet to helmet hits has done much to lower the number of concussions.

    Last season, I saw Packer QB, Aaron Rogers and Vikings QB, Bret Favre, suffer concussions that caused both to miss the next start.

    Neither Rogers’ or Favre’s concussion was a result of helmet to helmet contact, so Goodell had no one to fine in either case. Both Rogers and Favre suffered their concussion when the side of their helmet hit the turf.
    There was no helmet to helmet contact in these two examples and as you can see, neither hit was illegal or what I would consider a hard hit.

    IMO, both of these examples show just how poorly the helmets are in the NFL when it comes to protecting a player’s brain.

    The problem is the poor quality of today’s football helmets. The NFL and football at all levels are still using the same technology that was first introduced back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. A rock hard plastic outer shell with padding lining the inside of the helmets.

    There have been different kinds of padding added inside the helmets as well air padding to help get the perfect fit. Yet, players continue to get concussions.

    After 50 yrs of little advancement in helmet safety, it is time to think about adding a padded layer over the rock hard outer shell. It has been tried in the past…Willie Lanier in 1967 to 1977, Mark Kelso 1986-1993, Steve Wallace in the 1990s.

    In all 3 of these cases, the players credited the extra layer of padding on the “outside” of their helmets for extending their careers. In short, adding a padded layer to the outside of the rock hard outer shell “WORKED”.

    If the NFL was truly concerned about player safety, Roger Goodell would mandate new helmets with padding on the outside of the hard outer shell.

    Yes, it would be a big deal, because someone probably has patent rights on this idea…and it may not be “Riddell”. Every level of football would want the safest helmet for their players, which means Riddell might not be in business.

    It is time for Goodell and the NFL to stop playing around with player safety and mandate the improvement ASAP.


  35. Hey mac,

    Good point. Also, it was tough to tell, but in that nine-sack first half, the prevailing thought by millions like me not in the know is that Cutler got his concussion the same way: helmet to turf.

    it’s tough, because every bit you add to the helmet is that much weight with which the neck has to deal.

  36. @macbull,
    The padding on the outside may in fact limit some concussions but it could lead to other injuries. The hard shell now produces glancing blows where soft pads on both helmets could cause those hits to “grab” and thus increase neck injuries while reducing concussions.

    I don’t know if they can reduce concussions much with helmet design since the brain still slams around inside the skull on a sudden stop. I think there are a couple that work better than others and the NFL ought to forego the licensing contracts and make the players wear the safest design available.

  37. As far as helmets go, there was buzz years ago about increasing concussions during sparring with headgear. I have yet to see anything conclusive as to why, but IIRC it was about the gear enabling a better, more forceful hit to be made, even when the other boxer tried to dodge the blow.
    I have also seen reports in running circles about the forces of impact on joints in spite of cushioned shoes.
    The energy of a hit, either helmet to helmet/body, (or helmet to ground), may be slowed by padding, but the brain is still getting slapped around inside the skull.
    I am sure the helmets help protect against fractures and lacerations, but I am not a believer that it helps a lot in concussions from what I’ve seen.

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