Like Polamalu in 2010, Ryan Clark doesn’t understand the appeal process for fines

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On November 9, 2010, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu incorrectly explained that appeals of fines imposed for illegal hits are resolved by the Commissioner’s office.

Polamalu was incorrect.  The appeals are handled by two men who were jointly appointed and who are jointly paid by the NFL and NFLPA:  Art Shell and Ted Cottrell.

Exactly one year later to the day, a Steelers player is once again mischaracterizing the process.

“I mean you can appeal but I’m appealing to the same person,” safety Ryan Clark said of a $40,000 fine imposed against him on Wednesday for a helmet-to-helmet hit, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  “The same man.  I know he’s not going to sit across from because I’m not going to sit across from him unless they handcuff me, which is probably the next step anyway.”

Ryan, you’re simply wrong.  And for the same reason that Mike Tomlin needs to be telling his players what the rules permit and what the rules prohibit — instead of reviewing film of an illegal hit and telling the players that it was a good play — Tomlin needs to tell his team the truth about the appeals process.

Instead, coaches are subtly encouraging anger and frustration toward the rules, the league office, and Commissioner Roger Goodell by not ensuring that they players understand the process.  As pointed out last week, the coaches don’t pay the fines, and the coaches don’t want their defensive players to be neutered.

Thus, it appears that some coaches are withholding facts from their players, in order to ensure that they play aggressively, and that they remain generally pissed off.

The only way for the NFL to fix the situation is to begin to fine the coaches for promoting an atmosphere of ignorance of the rules, and of disrespect for the Commissioner and the league office.

51 responses to “Like Polamalu in 2010, Ryan Clark doesn’t understand the appeal process for fines

  1. If Goodell and the league are able to unilaterally fine players, then I think it is also their responsibility to educate the players on how the review, fining, and appeals process works. It’s their system, and not the coaches.

    The responsibility of the coach, in my opinion, is only to teach what is and is not a penalty to the players, as though are what affect the football game. That’s the only thing the coaches sure care about. Any processes beyond that, including appeals, are not something I want my coach spending time on, especially considering that the new CBA limits the time coaches are spending with their teams during camp and bye weeks.

    How much time does the league spend training coaches on these administrative processes?

  2. oh another Steeler’s player that doesn’t understand the rules or what’s going on. I mean come on. Is anyone really surprised by this?

  3. Lost in this preachy know-it-all article is that the $40K fine for that hit was and remains absurd.

    Spoken like a true nerd that never fastened.

  4. No.

    The problem is that the refs are not in synch with the league office. Flags are thrown for plays that are not fined and players are fined for plays that are ruled legal on the field.

    The refs don’t understand the rules that the league office is trying to enforce.

    That’s a league problem.

    Fix it and the coaches will, as they have always done, teach their players to avoid 15 yard penalties.

    Rant as much as you want about evil coaches but no NFL coach wants his players giving up costly penalties.

    Just make sure the dangerous plays always get a yellow flag.

    How hard can that be???

  5. Mike, the point isn’t the exact appeals process and who fines and who reviews, Ryan’s frustration is the same that all of us know, Roger Goodell is calling the shots on these things. Sure they put figureheads up to make sure it looks like a real “checks and balances” appeals process, but we all know that’s a sham.

    And this whole “fine coaches too”. Really? Why not come out and say it, let’s just fine everyone but quarterbacks.


  6. The Steelers seem to like to play stupid about this stuff.

    On the other hand, the inconsistent application of fines following inconsistent calls by refs or for whatever other reason whenever the league feels like it is beyond absurd. Goodell is a horrorshow,

  7. “The only way for the NFL to fix the situation is to begin to fine the coaches for promoting an atmosphere of ignorance of the rules, and of disrespect for the Commissioner and the league office.”

    Or the League could acknowledge their ridiculous bias and admit they went too far in a vain attempt to protect offensive players from an inherently violent profession while leaving the defensive player to fend for himself.

  8. If Goodell is so quick to pull the trigger on a fine against a player, why isn’t he do quick to discipline an official for a bad call?
    I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but there seem to be a ridiculous number of absolutely idiotic calls and missed calls this year.
    And, I know why he doesn’t acknowledge them.
    Never mind…

    We need professional officials calling these games.

  9. This isn’t about Polumalu or Clark or anyone else not understanding the appeals process. This is about players calling out the idiot responsible for the inconsistency in the officiating and fines processes. Clark is a player rep; of course he knows what the appeals process is.
    What he’s saying is that the people responsible for fining players are pandering to the Commissioner and his agenda. I, for one, agree with them.
    The hit in question for Clark started with Clark leading with his shoulder and Dickson lowering his head and actually initiating the contact. If you are going to fine and flag defensive players for this, then start flagging and fining receivers as well. The whole process is completely absurd.

  10. Seems like the Steelers are into doing a lot of shady stuff lately, or at least getting exposed for it. Misleading their players to increase their agression at their expense, bogus injury descriptions to circumvent rules regarding concussions….

  11. Id rather scrub a donkey all day than learn the appeals process…its probly the size of a telephone book.

  12. As I said earlier: What I would like to know is – if the league is going to impose fines on defensive players for helmet to helmet hits, launching, spearing, etc., then why aren’t offensive players flagged for lowering their helmets and using it as a battering ram against defensive players? I see running backs do this all the time. I saw Ryan Mathews do it to a cornerback a few weeks back and the defensive player had to be taken off of the field due to the viscious helmet to helmet hit. Ryan Mathews wasn’t fined, nor have I seen any offensive player fined for doing that. The case can be made that both players are not considered “defenseless,” but if the outcome is the same due to a violent h2h hit then what is being done about protecting ALL players on both sides of the ball? I mean that’s why the rule was created, correct? I would love to hear Goodell explain that to us fans in convincing fashion. In all fairness don’t you think it makes sense to ensure the safety of both offensive AND defensive players? If you can’t do that then get rid of the rule because it creates a clear disadvantage to the team. I know if I’m an OC I’m going to throw high across the middle late in games when we’re behind with a great probability that we’ll get free yards for an “illegal” hit. They’ve created a big mess with this rule.

  13. @ paulieorkid, you nailed it.

    Yeah, I’m sure Polamalu and Clark are the only players in the league who don’t fully understand the bogus “appeals” process, just as I am also sure that Tomlin is deliberately misleading players like Clark about the process in order to get them to be more aggressive on the field. Unbelievable.
    As said rightly above, it should be the league’s job to educate players about fines and the appeals process, not coaches. Coaches don’t levy the fines, the league does.
    But yes, what a great idea, fining coaches for “promoting an atmosphere…blah blah blah” – because more fines for vague, indecipherable rules are just what the league needs right now.

  14. So Tomlin and Clark are displaying the same blind arrogance you always get from this organization…..front office, coaches, players and fans….same thing

    Of course maybe they should be treated differently becuase of the 462 rings they have…..

  15. We shouldn’t be hearing the STEAL-ers complain that much anymore – they have the yellow brick road to the playoffs, starting this week.

  16. I used to actually like this team. Now they are comprised of a bunch of utter morons.

    Besides the other things they do like rape women and blame the president for 911, they can’t understand a simple spearing rule that has been in place in the NFL for DECADES! It isn’t a “new” rule at all. You could NEVER hit with the top of the head. It is just being enforced more now. The severity of the hit has nothing to do with it. Just like a facemasking penalty – grab the facemask, penalty. Do it over and over, penalty and fine.

    Is that simple enough?

  17. DonRSD says:
    Nov 10, 2011 6:27 AM
    We shouldn’t be hearing the STEAL-ers complain that much anymore – they have the yellow brick road to the playoffs, starting this week
    Didn’t they win the SB not to long ago from the 6th seat or am I wrong

  18. I am not like Mike Vick, I have no dog in this fight. But it seems like there are 2 ways to do things regarding these fines and how to handle them. The Steelers complain and moan as they appeal them, and Ray Lewis scratches a check and moves on. While I respect both franchises, it just shows the difference between the two

  19. It’s no surprise really that Clark can’t understand the appeals process. Hell, after several years of being told not to lead with his helmet on every tackle he still does it. He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, if you know what I mean.

  20. earthtopft says: Nov 10, 2011 3:13 AM

    Its Pennsylvania. Home to sex abusers, crooked cops, and outright idiots. Oh, and the Steelers.

    That last sentence is redundant.

  21. The worst part is that if the League fines Tomlin and his staff for promoting illegal hits, which they should based on what you posted yesterday, the Yinzer fans are going to go apoplectic about how the league unfairly targets them and that Goodell has it out for them instead of realizing that their team just breaks the rules more than everyone else.

  22. every week players are getting fined. this type of hit is impossible to stop, and that is why players get paid the big money they do. they put their bodies at risk and are rewarded hansomely for it.

    in order to take these hits out people will not like what football will become..

    on the subject of fines, im glad to hear that the nfl considers helmet to helmet hits as only 5x (monetraily) greater than wearing the wrong coloured shoes (first oofender prices)

  23. wikidpissah says: Nov 10, 2011 6:45 AM

    Clark is the dirtiest player in the NFL. Has been for years.

    Nah, once Rodney Harrison retired, that mantle passed to Hines.

  24. These fines are completely out of control. I’m ok with fines for players with malicious intent. But using your shoulder to the chest of the receiver to try and dislodge the ball is football. His job is to not let the receiver catch the ball. To call that hit helmet to helmet (assuming the hit on Ed Dixon) is just plain incorrect. Should went to the chest and even hit the ball. The helmet (which is attached to his shoulders) grazed the face mask of Dixon. That is not helmet to helmet. What is a defender supposed to do, wait for the player to catch the ball, get both feet on the ground, and make a “football move” before touching them?

    What is lost in this whole debate about illegal hits on “defenseless” receivers is that it is the offensive schemes and the passes thrown that are putting these receivers in harms way. Shouldn’t it be upon the offense and QB to not put their receivers in vulnerable positions? Instead, the league is trying to remove the defenses ability to defend the field. It’s is, and always has been, a brutally physical game.

    These rules have the potential to turn the league into arena football style, where there is no such thing as a running game and scores commonly exceed 50 points. I do not care to see the NFL heading that direction. The NFL is dangerously close to jumping the shark for me.

  25. The appeals are handled by two men who were jointly appointed and who are jointly paid by the NFL and NFLPA: Art Shell and Ted Cottrell.

    Sure, those men handle the appeals, but let’s not be stupid here–nothing happens in the NFL without Goodell knowing about it and having a say in the decision.

    I have no doubt that the appeal is discussed with Goodell. Shell and Cottrell are merely the faces of the appeals process, and when they make a decision, if Goodell doens’t agree with it, they change it.

    Goodell takes pride in being the face of the NFL. Do you really think he’s going to let anything–including a reduction or elimination of a fine–happen if he doens’t think it’s in his best interest of the NFL?

  26. There should be a former player reviewing these hits and if there is he must be a former place kicker. Helmets collide on everyplay. O-line and D-line collisions aren’t being watched and they go at it every play. A defenseless receiver may get it worst in one play but Runningbacks give out the damage too.

  27. These guys are adults, not 13 year old kids. It is their responsibility to learn the rules. The coaches job is to coach football, not teach ethics. If I run a red light and get a ticket, it is not my fathers onus to ensure that I know the penalty and process for said violation, it is mine. As adults( and I use that term lightly) it is up to us to take responsibilities for our own actions. That being said, this just seems to me to be a way for the greediest business in the history of the world to extort more money from the players and eventually from the fans that pay for their exorbitant salaries.

  28. The commissioner and the league office are pushing ridiculous policy. They should be publicly shamed and disrespected. Way to be a good little German and push that company line. MF was obviously the hall monitor growing up, and was that annoying little dweeb who raised his hand every time in class.

  29. As Stillers fans continue to cry like the biggest babies over the calls they all feel were unjust in the Ravens’ sweep of their team, I have to laugh.

    And nobody ever said these guys understood the rules – I mean they barely passed the 3rd grade right?

  30. You can’t blame Clark. The league has choosen the defense to get the blunt of fines since all the rules lean toward the offense. Fans who have the ticket and can watch many games see it every week …hits not called ,phantom calls and calls that cost teams games. I understyand safety but the main core of the game is being jeopardized by the fines.

  31. The premise of this article assumes that Goodell has no control or influence in any way on the appeals process – how it was set-up, how it operates, who and how the judges were selected. The article admits that the NFL (i.e. Goodell) pays the adjudicators.

  32. Umm, Mike, I know you’re desperately trying to turn attention away from the real problem by suggesting that coaches should be fined, but let’s be honest for once.

    The problem stems from the officiating. Ray Lewis was fined for his hit on Ward only because Ward got a concussion and dropped the pass (he technically didn’t, but that was another bad call). If Ward held on and hopped up like he normally did, there would have been no question about the play.

    I know this because on the Steelers last TD drive, Antonio Brown took a helmet to helmet shot as he was in the process of making a catch, thus making him defenseless. He dropped the ball, but got right up, which is why there was no fine.

    The league office issued no fine, which means they don’t know what’s going on either.

    This problem stems from poor officiating and a terrible league office.

    So be honest…

  33. Here’s an idea for Ryan Clark:

    How ’bout you start learning not to use your helmet as a weapon? Then you won’t have any fines to appeal!

    Saw this guy blatantly launch his mellon twice against the Patriots, helmet-to-helmet, clearly intentionally. Then saw a video of him doing it again the next week.

    He clearly is using this intimidation tactic to mask the fact that he sucks at covering receivers.

  34. Ok, this is getting out of hand so why not throw my 2 cents worth in. First of all, whether we and/or the players approve of the rules doesn’t matter-they have to play by them or suffer the consequences, for lack of a better term. If they choose not to play by them then shut up with you get fined. Secondly, his helmet hit Dicksons’ helmet before or at least at the same time as his shoulder…that is by definition a h2h hit. Thirdly, that looked to me like a hit on a “defenseless receiver”. Fourth, I miss those hits also but this is football today so if you don’t like it…don’t watch. Finally, someone brought up a good point earlier, they aren’t the only ones to get fined, they just whine the most so take that for what it’s worth.

  35. That’s hardly the only way.

    A better way would be for the NFL to craft clearer, reality-based rules which don’t penalize defensive players for actions they can’t control.
    ie. offensive players ducking when bracing for impact.
    Then, the NFL can attempt to apply those rules fairly and equitably to all teams.

    These informed changes would garner more respect for the NFL and their officiating.
    As it is, it’s a mess.

  36. I guarantee the view of Goodell as judge, jury, appellate judge, and executioner isn’t unique to Steelers players. If the NFL wants to counter that impression, then I’d suggest they work harder to make Shell and Cottrell’s roles understood. That’s their job, not Mike Tomlin’s. Personally, I don’t believe Shell and Cottrell are empowered to overrule Goodell on anything without his okay. Does that mean Mike Tomlin needs to talk to me, too? I’m okay with that 😀

  37. As a Ravens fan, I still find it absurd that Tomlin would tell his players what Clark is relaying. Mike is simply too good of a coach and is more intelligent than Clark’s irate and sore demeanor would lead an uninformed person to believe.

  38. Look, I’m a long-time NFL fan and an attorney and I don’t understand the rules. If the rules are so clear, please write an article clearly explaining the rules for illegal hits. What I do know is that when Goodell was asked about the rules for illegal hits last year, he could not explain them (as this website admitted). The truth is that the new rules for illegal hits were extremely poorly thought out and were a knee-jerk reaction to one week of big hits. I agree with previous posters, the problem is not with the coaches, it’s that the officials don’t understand the rules and apply them inconsistently, causing player confusion and frustration.

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