Few currently disagree with the notion that Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald should be suspended for his behavior at Thursday’s joint practice with the Bengals. Players who swing helmets should always face significant punishment, regardless of whether the incident results in a serious injury. Otherwise, guys will keep swinging helmets until someone suffers a serious injury — and then the NFL will act surprised that someone was seriously injured after getting hit by a helmet.
The problem is that the NFL does not police the behavior of players at practice, even when it’s a joint practice. That means it’s for the Rams to suspend him, if anyone.
Will they? Coach Sean McVay already has said he’s not looking to point fingers. Of course he isn’t, because that finger would be pointed at the player most responsible to covering it with a Super Bowl ring.
The league can punish the Rams for not controlling their guys. Could the league tell the Rams that a significant punishment will be imposed on the team is Donald isn’t suspended? If so, the question becomes proposing enough of a penalty against the team to get the Rams to suspend Donald.
And if the Rams still won’t suspend Donald, the NFL should just do it. Even if the league doesn’t control player conduct during practices, the Personal Conduct Policy applies everywhere, without restriction as to time or place. It specifically prohibits this: “Violent or threatening behavior toward another employee or a third party in any workplace setting.”
If NFL players are subject to the Personal Conduct Policy whenever and wherever they may be, does it not apply during a joint practice? Is that not “any workplace setting”?
That’s the easy solution. Activate Judge Sue L. Robinson. Propose a punishment. Have a hearing. Play the video. Case closed.
And if the NFL Players Association tries to turn chicken shit facts into a chicken salad legal loophole, let them. What’s the shame in the Commissioner taking a firm stand for what’s right?
If guys (especially those with the strength of Aaron Donald) keep swinging helmets in practice, someone is eventually going to get injured, or worse. And the league will have significant potential liability. Wouldn’t it be wise to be able to say, if that ever happens, that they’ve tried to do everything in their power to deter such behavior? Wouldn’t it be even better to actually deter such behavior?
Bottom line — when the Rams host the Bills on the first Thursday night of the season, Donald should not be in the building. And he should be gone for multiple weeks beyond that. If the Rams won’t do it, the NFL should.