NFL considers more ejections for illegal hits


In college football, the targeting rule states that any player who targets his opponent’s head with an illegal hit is automatically ejected, resulting in numerous ejections every Saturday. That approach may be coming to the NFL.

NFL Executive Vice President for Football Operations Troy Vincent says that the league’s Competition Committee is looking at immediate ejections as a solution to eliminate hits to the head.

“The Committee is also exploring ways — including considering immediate ejections or suspensions — to take dangerous hits out of our game,” Vincent wrote on Twitter. “We’ll communicate this to our coaches and players with video examples of flagrant hits that may result in ejection or suspension.”

Referees already have the discretion to eject players for flagrantly illegal hits, but the refs rarely actually kick a player out of the game for even the hardest of head shots. And the league already hands out some suspensions for illegal hits, but those are also rare.

Vincent’s tweets suggest that they might not be rare for much longer. Ejections and suspensions may become a routine part of the NFL’s crackdown on hits to the head.

78 responses to “NFL considers more ejections for illegal hits

  1. Scary notion. They do ejections in college for helmet to helmet hits and some of them are unavoidable as the offensive placer braces for a hit he, in the process for balling up for the impact, lowers his head. And sure in slow motion replace when it’s 15 times slower there does appear to be a moment when the defender could pull up. But when you watch it in real time it actually happens faster than you can read the words , “Bam Bam”

    wading into treacherous waters.

  2. As long as any ejection is subject to a replay review or coaches challenge. There are many times a Personal Foul turns out to be a miss when you look at the slo-mo.

  3. I wonder if these illegal hits will include domestic violence? I lot of draft prospects are already getting preferential treatment. And Elliott from last year.

  4. The Steelers stand to benefit most. Players like Burfict will get ejections and suspensions, while the refs will look the other way for Shazier, Dupree, Mike Mitchell, etc etc.

  5. And when the refs miss the hit and fail to call a penalty, will the coach be able to challenge the non-call or will they be told it is a non-reviewable call????

  6. I don’t have a problem with it as long as it can be overturned on replay.

    Loss of game check(s) should be included. In the event that the targeted player misses games, the offending player should be suspended (without pay) for the same number of games.

  7. The targeting rule in college has been a failure, as we have seen players ejected for non-flagrant hits. The NFL must tread carefully here, we can’t legislate violent hits out of the game. The defenseless receiver rule is a joke, and if the rules are changed too much, football will see a decrease in popularity.

  8. Its a good change to the rules and I’m not sure but I think the college system has video reply installed for this penalty.

    That way, you don’t eject a person for helmet to helmet when the intention was not there but the ball carrier moved at the last moment.

    The rest of the head hunters can take a seat in the locker room and watch the game on TV like the rest of us.

  9. Ok so the NFL takes these next steps to curb head injuries but does it stop there? NO! This is all a ploy for our sue crazy members of the American Trial Lawyers to fatten their bank accounts and they’re allowed to do it under the guise of player safety. They won’t stop their greedy ploy until they are allowed to sue for an game injury as minor as a chipped fingernail. By then the game will be destroyed.

  10. While I agree players should be ejected for Illegal, head hunter Hits, the Refs and NFL will find a way to screw it up. Like the Catch rule that no one can define, the Illegal Hit rule will be the same way.

  11. The league also announced uniform pants would be replaced by skirts made of bubble wrap and that tackling an opposing player would be a simple 5 yard penalty and not an ejection.

  12. what about when a offensive player lowers their head at the last second and then as a result are hit in the head ? Penalty maybe, but ejection ?

    This could become the new version of a basketball FLOP !!

  13. Then any ejection had better be reviewable and players ducking heads better be taken into account.

    How many times is there a flag for helmet to helmet hits and during the replay you see the offensive player drop his head a foot or more to protect their legs.

  14. Will the utilize instant replay before an ejection. We’ve seen several hits receive a personal foul only to see on replay that the hit was NOT to the head. But, the penalty still stands…

  15. Pittsburgh always exempt.

    Don’t worry Pittsburgh fans; they’re be an exemption for your guys in yellow and black; or some kind of screwy explanation from ‘Blind Dino’ as to why it wasn’t even illegal….

    It’ll all come down to how much is in that brown envelope that Rooney will slip into God-dells’ pocket at the previous owners meeting.

    Cody Wallace on David Bruton comes to mind; Shazier on Gio Bernard, Mike Mitchell on Tyler Eifert; all nasty headshots without suspension.

    They ought to be considering suspending a guy at least as long as the opponent who got hit is out of the game. Its wrong that a guy has to sit through ‘concussion protocol’, while the guy who who did the hitting continues to line-up…..

    Of course for a guy to be ejected for an illegal hit; it has to be called right in the first place……

  16. The college rule sucks. I’ve seen kids ejected from huge games after incidental or unavoidable contact. Please don’t bring that crap into the NFL.

  17. Just another way for the refs to influence the outcome of the game. All these subjective penalties make their job extremely difficult and good for no one, except the owners of the NFL to use a defense in future litigation. Because, as we all know, this isn’t to protect players, it is protect their defense in the courtroom.

  18. Combine this with instant replay: eject the flagrant targeting, but if you can see their aim was good in replay but the QB (or whoever) started coming down in anticipation of the hit let it slide.

    I understand the “this is becoming flag football” argument, I do, but I’d rather use the obvious advantage we have with technology and keep players from taking UNNECESSARY damaging hits.

    I’d rather see teams fielding their best players deeper into the season than relying on whoever is left on the bench, wouldn’t you?

  19. Suspensions make sense, ejections don’t. Too hard to tell intent in the moment.

    Of course, the NFL gets it wrong all the time with suspensions too, e.g. Vontaze Burfict going after Martellus Bennett’s knee this year (among many other things).

  20. They should enact this rule immediately. I’m sorry but you have to get head hunting out of the game. The only way to do it is through severe penalties. The sport is really suffering at the youth level because so many parents are pulling their kids out of football due to terrible brain trauma caused by hits to the head.

    The NFL needs to stop the carnage through smart, reasonable rules which protect both the players of today and unfortunately, the dwindling number of tomorrow’s players.

  21. All ejections in college are reviewed, and this NEEDS to be part of the NFL too. Have to give the refs a second look for such a game-swinging play. Also, I’d like to see college and NFL take into account the intended aiming point of the defender. When the offense ducks for impact and contact is made to the head, you can’t fault the defender on that.

  22. Can’t take the NFL seriously on player safety until they introduce safer helmets ALREADY ON MARKET, even though to do so will cost them licensing fees.

  23. News comes out on the same day that the NFL icon Gayle Sayers is suffering from dementia, and San Francisco great Dwight Clark has ALS – that he attributes to playing football.

    First off, both of those developments qualify as tragic — and it’s really sad for the two NFL legends.

    But on a related note, now the NFL postures that it will have more of a hair-trigger on ejections for (perceived) illegal hits. Wow, it’s as if the NFL really cares about player welfare and safety.

  24. Anyone who’s ever actually played organized football knows that at full speed some of these hits are just completely unavoidable. Judging a players intent on a hit is a very slippery slope indeed. Sometimes it’s obvious, but most times it would just be a judgment call by the ref. Another “judgment” call that can heavily influence the outcome of football games ( i.e. pass interference, was that a catch???) is not what the game needs. The NFL should be wary of any rules that could call into doubt the integrity of the game.

  25. The NFL needs to be VERY careful with this. Their officiating is already under scrutiny for being bad at their jobs.

    If they want to move forward with this, I suggest they move forward with the proposal from last season to make penalties reviewable. Give the coach a purple flag(or something else obvious) which is a penalty challenge. They get 1 per game, if they succeed they earn a second. This flag can be used to review any penalty flag thrown against your team including those that result in ejection

  26. I can’t believe some of the hits these guys take then get right up and trot back to the game or sideline. I’d be dead if blasted with one of these vicious hits.

  27. Useless unless you get TJ Ward for continuous knee targeting.

    It’s a good idea though. It made me lol when the NFL cracked down on Unsportsmanlike last season, but not the face smashing of defenseless players. It’s like they enacted the wrong rule by accident. Taunting is fine at 15 yards. Intentional face smashing of airborne receivers is not fine at 15 yards. Time to start ejecting those guys.

  28. Well over half the ejections in college are bogus–either the head wasn’t impacted at all or it was a glancing blow after another part of the body was struck first. College replay officials have been TERRIBLE and let most targeting calls stand even when the replay clearly shows the call was wrong. The NFL will have to do a whole lot better if they go this route.

  29. get ready for the pace of the game to slow even more as they review hits to see if they were helmet to helmet

  30. It seems like every week there’s a story like GSayers, DClark, DDuerson, etc. coming out. The gm is plenty tough as it is. Form tackling is not that tough to coach, or implement. If the game is not violent enough for you 300 lb chip munching couch potatoes, go watch crashes on one of the racing circuits or one of the fighting leagues.

  31. Dear NFL, please simplify your rules and make them more transparent. Not even the refs fully understand them. And let the boys play ball for crying out loud!

  32. Yet another example of a situation where an onsite eye in the sky replay game official would be beneficial. I am sure everyone would agree deliberate attempts to injure should result in ejection but we’ve all seen plenty of personal foul penalties that were called in error. Any ejection would have to be subject to immediate review and having the on field ref do it takes far too long. There’s no excuse for the league not already having an onsite video official in constant contact with the ref as it is. Targeting possible personal fouls for ejection would just be one more reason to make it happen.

  33. PFT loves the Steelers says:
    Mar 22, 2017 12:15 PM
    The Steelers stand to benefit most. Players like Burfict will get ejections and suspensions, while the refs will look the other way for Shazier, Dupree, Mike Mitchell, etc etc.
    Harrison…How did you forget about Harrison?

  34. Gives broadcasters another sponsorship opportunity, though. “Was that an illegal hit? We’ll find out in a moment. Hey if your car ever suffers from an illegal hit, call your friends at MAACO. Uh-oh, better get MAACO.”

  35. pastabelly says:
    Mar 22, 2017 12:52 PM
    Ndamukong Suh will find a way to avoid ejections, suspensions, and fines. That one is already locked in.
    Because Suh stomps on player’s ankles and not on their heads.

  36. yourunclerico says:
    Mar 22, 2017 1:36 PM
    so… the donkeys shouldn’t even bother showing up for the games anymore?


    Unclerrico, not sure who you’re a fan of, but there’s no way you mention their name as much as you do the “donkeys”.

  37. I get that this is a bit much as the definition of what is illegal can sometimes be skewed or misinterpreted as many have already mentioned, but at the same time there is no real retribution for an opposing defense that takes a cheap shot in the first quarter of an important game on a guy like Aaron Rodgers which would paralyze an entire offense while the opposing defense only gets penalized 15 yards.

    Losing a once in a lifetime talent early in a game because of a concussion from a cheap shot and potentially losing him for an extended series of games is not on an equal plane as a 15-yard penalty and money taken away/suspension from just one guy after the game.

  38. In related news, Burfict’s just going to defer his salary to the NFL in an effort to streamline the cash flow expected next season.

  39. Right. Because the NFL is known for being able to determine intent. Refs can’t legislate a catch so let’s try head hunting.


  40. Everyone worried about guys going after knees… this won’t change how knee hits are ruled.

    This all stems from concussion concerns. People are suing over concussions because players weren’t told of the problems concussions caused… but plays know the problems knee injuries can cause, so those cases don’t have a leg to stand on in court.

  41. Personally I can’t stand some of these rule changes, but what annoys me even more is the fact they make changes and then the vast majority of players end up hating those changes. They put their bodies on the line, they can be cut at any time, and they are expected to be ambassadors for the league so they should get a say. Not the Players Union, mind you, but the individual players themselves.

    Why can’t they (I know why, I’m just spitballing here) simply put rule changes to a vote? 32 owners, 32 GMs, 32 head coaches, and every player gets to vote and majority wins. It’s never going to be perfect and you’d have to figure out which players can vote (do you exclude practice squad/training camp fodder and focus only on the active roster guys, etc) but if that happened we’d see democracy in action. The game would only change to the extent the majority of the league wants it to change.


  42. Funny how all of these rules in the name of safety are just a way to preserve the cash cow QBs like Brady. Belichick and Kraft know that when Brady goes, the Patriots winning days are over.

  43. Get rid of rigid helmets, go to rugby style softer, padded leather. Then you’d see guys start learning how to tackle instead of leading with their head trying to knock someone out.

  44. One rule that they need is that if a player causes another to get injured on an illegal hit, then the infracting player is out for as long as the injured player is out. Weeks, months, whatever.

  45. They could do a review, like in college. My preference would be that the review is handled in some central location, and play on the field can just continue until the central location gets a chance to take a look (maybe 2-3 plays later at most), and then they could inform said player that he is out. That would avoid the players and fans having to sit and wait to find out if someone is tossed. I much prefer in game ejections instead of suspensions, as then it may help the team that was potentially injured instead of helping some random team next week.

  46. jonathankrobinson424 says:
    Mar 22, 2017 1:58 PM
    It’s great to see the old game tapes of the NFL……almost every play would have a flag in todays NFL.
    Tell that to Brian Stork who retired this week after all of two seasons because of multiple concussions. At least, he has a life to look forward to. You can enjoy those tapes knowing that.

  47. We implemented instant replay to take the officials human error from affecting the outcome of games. Now the league wants to interject subjective official discretion once again. Eject the star players on defense and you effect the outcome. Offensive players will certainly set them up by lowering their helmets to draw the penalty.

  48. The bar for ejecting a player should be extremely high. Short of retrieving a shiv from his sock, no one has any business ejecting a player. Yet instead, as is the case with the nfl’s competence and integrity, the bar is on a seemingly inexorable path downward

  49. Eject the star players on defense and you effect the outcome.

    Knocking skill players out of the game doesn’t effect the outcome??………….

    Level the playing field.

    Boot these guys. ESPECIALLY the repeat offenders.

  50. They need a cumulative foul system throughout the season, much like the NBA tracks technical fouls.

    1st helmet-to-helmet hit – flagged
    2nd helmet-to-helmet hit – player is ejected
    Further helmet-to-helmet hits – suspension
    Continued disregard for player safety – ban

    Put your money where your mouth is, NFL. Otherwise, STOP talking about player safety!

  51. “In college football, the targeting rule states that any player who targets his opponent’s head with an illegal hit is automatically ejected, resulting in numerous ejections every Saturday”.

    “resulting in numerous ejections every Saturday”.

    Doesn’t sound like it is working.

  52. wading into treacherous waters.
    Agree 100%. The “targeting” rule in college is allowing refs to literally decide the outcomes of games with impunity, and is enforced as capriciously as anything I’ve ever seen. If the league is considering anything like that, count it as another nail in the coffin.

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