Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan deserves the NFL's most severe punishment despite not being ejected from Thursday's 35-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers after a spear placed wide receiver Davante Adams in the hospital.
Trevathan wasn't considered a dirty player, but he will be now—whether he deserves the designation or not.
The best feeling a defensive football player can experience is laying a clean hit on an opponent, hearing the wind being forced out of the ball-carrier's body and a defeated man grunting his disapproval because of the standout play.
The downfall of this momentary gridiron bliss helps establish an alpha-male mentality that leads to far more vicious and unconscionable hits.
Due to the size and speed of today's athletes, the NFL continues to implement rules for the players' safety. This includes hitting a defenseless target.
Normally, a runner isn't considered defenseless after the catch is completed, but Trevathan's crushing blow required a rarely called infraction, per Fox Sports' Mike Pereira:
What makes the linebacker's hit such an egregious penalty is threefold.
First and foremost, Trevathan led with the crown of his helmet. Today's tacklers are supposed to lead with their shoulder and spin carriers to the ground. The top of the helmet is treated as a weapon.
"I regret," Trevathan said, per Packers News' Ryan Wood, "just the level I hit him at. I could've been a little bit better, but you've got to understand I was in a momentum, and I was trying to make a play. Nothing intentional. It happens in this game."
Replays showed Trevathan made himself into a living spear by going helmet-to-helmet with the prone Adams, per Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson:
Second, the collision was unnecessary. Adams' progress had been stopped. Trevathan tried to finish off a defenseless player. Whether he intentionally aimed high or not is inconsequential. Adrian Amos already made the play.
"I'm not saying that (Trevathan) is a dirty player or anything like that," Packers guard Jahri Evans said. "He doesn't have a history like that, but you want to take care of guys. In that respect, he could've went in without his head, without his helmet. But he saw a target, and I truly believe he hit what he wanted to hit."
Third, officials didn't eject Trevathan despite the NFL's increased emphasis on preventing these very acts. The league's competition committee approved automatic ejections for "egregious" hits to the head in March, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Can anyone think of a more obvious case than the one provided Thursday night?
Adams left the contest in an ambulance due to Trevathan's flagrant disregard for proper tackling, per ESPN's Michele Steele:
The NFL doesn't even need to break ground with a potential suspension. The league already disciplined Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for a violent and gratuitous hit on Kansas City Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman during the preseason.
Burfict received a five-game suspension before it was reduced to three games after an appeal. However, a significant difference exists between Burfict and Trevathan's situations.
The Bengals linebacker simply became too aggressive during a legal play. His act may have been avoidable, but it didn't draw a penalty. The Bears defender received a 15-yard personal foul penalty.
Trevathan may not have been ejected from the contest like he should have been, but his hit warrants a full five-game suspension. Former NFL Vice President of Officiating and current Fox Sports rules analyst Dean Blandino expects repercussions:
One play also presents an overarching issue. The NFL has a concussion problem, and it's desperately trying to legislate any avoidable hits with or to the head.
With the growing understanding of how players suffer, especially during their post-career lives, the league can't afford to look weak on this issue after putting a rule in place to avoid this very scenario.
An example must be made to deter defenders from trying to apply knockout blows.
An opportunity to do the right thing presented itself Thursday night: Trevathan threw a dirty hit, injured a fellow athlete and deserves the league's harshest penalty.