Why NFL Should Consider Automatic Suspensions for Players Who Headhunt

Thomas GaliciaContributor IINovember 11, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 11:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears looks to pass against the Houston Texans during the game at Soldier Field on November 11, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Maybe I'm overreacting here, but NFL players who headhunt should get suspended, preferably for two games or however long the injured player is out with an injury (whichever one is more games).

How the NFL hasn't implemented this yet is a mystery to me. Increased concussion awareness and the lawsuits and player suicides that have come from concussions would make it seem like this would be the natural evolution.

On Sunday Night Football, we saw a possible example of head hunting when Tim Dobbins hit Jay Cutler in the second quarter. Cutler would suffer a concussion on the hit and not return to the game for Chicago (per profootballtalk.com). At the very least, the NFL should look at the hit and possibly fine Dobbins, but the fair thing to do if they feel he was headhunting would be to suspend him.

The NFL already levies big fines for helmet-to-helmet hits, but in fairness those can be a bit arbitrary at times. A simple helmet-to-helmet shouldn't warrant an automatic suspension, but how the hit was executed should be looked at.

First, let's explain what's so wrong with headhunting, even though by now we already know. It's concussions. This video by ESPN's Sports Science shows how a concussion can occur on a hard hit.

Now, not all helmet-to-helmet hits are what you would call headhunting; sometimes, it's just an unfortunate accident. Here's one example of an accident.

Was it unfortunate that Josh Cribbs suffered a concussion? Of course it was, but to me at least that didn't look like an intentional case of one player trying to deliberately hurt another. Harrison didn't lead with his head, at least not at first. The reason it went helmet-to-helmet was because Cribbs was already in the process of being tackled, and Harrison already had the momentum carrying him (and his head) towards Cribbs' head.

Was it a fineable offense? Even that is ambiguous. Harrison would be fined $75,000, but even Josh Cribbs, the victim of that hit, implored that Harrison not change the way he plays, stating (per ESPN.com):

"Let refs ref. Let the NFL administration, let everyone do their jobs. If you get fined, just try to tailor yourself, but play the game. Don't try to change who you are."


That was two years ago, but still an accident. Some big hits, however are not unfortunate accidents, but the result of maliciousness. Determining the difference, however, has proven to be difficult. In fact it's so difficult that I can't really show you a video of a guaranteed malicious helmet-to-helmet hit because the line is so blurry.

I can show you a collection of hard hits and let you be the judge.

Some of them looked like headhunting to me; others just looked like unfortunate accidents. Either way, the NFL should do a better job of differentiating between the two, and punishing the players that do go out to intentionally hurt other players.

How the NFL hasn't started doing that yet is still a mystery to me.