NFL Helmet To Helmet Controversy: Is Adding Two Regular Season Games Ironic?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IOctober 20, 2010

HOUSTON - JANUARY 03:  Safety Brandon Meriweather #31 of the New  England Patriots talks with back judge Perry Paganalli #46 after a personal foul was called on safety James Sanders at Reliant Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson will each be fined $50,000 by the league for their helmet-to-helmet hits this weekend, while Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison reportedly will be fined $75,000 as a repeat offender.

The big news is, none will be suspended.

This, despite much ado over the past few days about the league's policy on fining players for such hits. Rodney Harrison scoffed at fines, and said as much on Football Night in America on NBC, declaring that he had a fund set aside each year because he knew he'd get fined for his physical play.

"Fining me five or 10 grand really didn't effect me, but I got to a point where when they suspended me, and I knew the effect on my teammates, the disappointment (of) me not being out there...that's what they're going to have to do if they're going to change the nature of these hits."

For the league to be taking such a harsh stance on the hits that occurred this weekend, one of two things must have happened: Either they watched the games and thought the hits were disgusting, or they heard Rodney Harrison's rant.

Either way, the league is now considering suspending players for flagrant hits like the one Meriweather laid on Heap, or like the one James Harrison planted on Mohammed Massoquoi.

Whether it was in defense of his teammate or just a passing thought, Steelers safety Ryan Clark had an interesting tweet on Monday in regard to the NFL's new stance on helmet-to-helmet hits:

"So the NFL wants to suspend players for helmet to helmet due to injuries, yet the NFL wants 2 more games. Make sense?"

He presents an interesting paradox. The NFL embraces the potential of additional injuries due to an "enhanced season," but rejects those that could simply be a result of a player trying to make a play.

It's ironic when you think about it, but consider this: is the NFL stiffening up its rules for the benefit of the players, so that they can make it through an 18-game season?

Intentional helmet-to-helmet hits are inexcusable, make no mistake about it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the players know that this could happen to them, even by mistake?

It's clear that the defenders, at least, want to be able to hit harder in a shorter period of time rather than playing softer over a longer period of time.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson was interviewed on ESPN radio on Tuesday, and said, "We are just going to enforce the existing rules much more to the letter of the law so we can protect our players."

Sure, they can protect the players more than they have. But the NFL is walking a fine line toward taking violence out of the game.

On the one hand, with all the injuries—namely concussions—this season already, is it even possible to expand to 18 games without some stricter rules for player safety?

On the other hand, if you take away the physicality of the game, are people going to enjoy watching enough to stomach 18 games worth of a regular season?

A player trying to make a play, as Dunta Robinson was on Sunday, shouldn't face a suspension. Flagrant hits like the one we saw from Meriweather, though, need to be outlawed.

The league has already seen a high number of concussions this season, and obviously the league should take any measure they deem necessary to fix the issue. When a hit is flagrant like the one we saw Meriweather lay on Heap, a suspension shouldn't be a question. It should be a guarantee.

This is already against the rules. The NFL has just had enough.