Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed has been suspended for the team's Week 12 game against the San Diego Chargers after being flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Pittsburgh wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in Sunday night's game.
Ravens S Ed Reed suspended 1 game w/o pay for repeated violations of rules prohibiting hits to head & neck area of defenseless players.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 19, 2012
Under the CBA, Ed Reed has 3 days to appeal. Expect expedited hearing by Art Shell or Ted Cottrell (appointed by NFL & NFLPA)— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 19, 2012
While Roger Goodell's name doesn't appear anywhere near the appeal, let's assume that things go as they have in the NFL when it comes to appeals and the suspension is upheld.
It won't change anything.
Take a look at the hit that earned Reed this one-game ban.
If you watch up until the video is almost over, when we get into the slow-motion closeups, Reed clearly has Sanders' torso in his sights as the receiver turned—and lowered his head—resulting in the helmet-to-helmet contact.
What exactly was Reed supposed to do at that point?
It's a physical impossibility to avoid that hit from happening.
Look, I understand that the NFL is trying to reduce the number of head injuries sustained by its players, especially in the wake of the massive legal issues that the league currently finds itself embroiled in with hundreds, if not thousands, of former NFL players suing the league over head injuries.
I'm certainly not condoning headhunting, and those players who partake in that practice have no place on the field.
But Ed Reed wasn't head hunting. He was trying to make a tackle.
That he couldn't do anything in a split second to avoid Sanders—who instinctively lowered his head when he began to duck—isn't Reed's fault.
The blame on that hit lies with Reed as much as it lies with Sanders, and nobody's going to sit here and blame Sanders for trying to brace himself for impact.
Suspending Ed Reed does only one thing—it shines a light on the NFL's biggest problem.
But that problem isn't big hits on defenseless receivers—it's that the head protection given to players has not evolved with the players themselves, who are bigger, stronger and faster—on both sides of the ball—than ever before.
You can't stop defenders from closing on a receiver quickly.
You can't stop receivers and running backs from instinctively lowering their pads—thus lowering their helmets—right into the path of a defender.
You certainly can't stop players from getting bigger, faster and stronger.
You can only control one thing: the helmets.
It's time for the NFL to invest some of those billions of dollars that it is pocketing on a yearly basis into drastically improved headgear for its players.
No number of fines or suspensions is going to change that from being the ultimate answer to the problem.
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