Since becoming the NFL commissioner in September 2006, Roger Goodell has been a stern and vocal leader, not only leading with new innovative programs for rookies, but also governing the players with an iron fist. He has been consistent and fair with rulings on suspensions, fines, and other disciplinary actions—until now.
Football has become bigger, faster, and stronger, and is now starting to jeopardize the stars of the league with career threatening injuries such as concussions. Goodell says he wants less violence and more safety, but what he fails to realize is that by initiating a plan for an 18 game season, he is only promoting more violence. The season length is perfect the way it is, and extending it would be sacrificing the health of players and quite simply lining the already deep pockets of the owners with another home game.
Concussions are being taken more seriously as of late, and rightly so. Players are being held out of games, and having to retire early to try to ensure having a normal life when their careers are over. Some former players are showing negative side effects in their lives after football. They have multiple disabilities, no health insurance, and some have lost their lives early because of the trauma put on the body for such a long time.
The safety of the players is one of the most important things the NFL has to worry about, but the disciplinary measures handed out to players does not reflect that. Do you think Richard Seymour slugging Ben Roethlisberger was the same as the Cortland Finnegan/Andre Johnson brawl? Why is it less of a fine than the $75,000 fined to James Harrison on a helmet to helmet hit? Finnegan and Johnson should have been suspended at least a game. The message would have been sent loud and clear: if you get ejected, it will cost you a game check. The $25,000 fine handed out for those two incidents is laughable. Seymour forfeited less than a percent of his yearly salary; if he were suspended one game, it would have cost him $774,875—a sizable difference, to say the least.
Fining a player for illegally leading with his helmet on hits is another matter. Roger Goodell is trying to make the game safer, but football is a very physical sport played with split second decisions, and injuries are going to occur. As a defender, not trying to jar the ball loose on a crossing route over the middle will only have you looking for another job come week's end. The physicality of football is why Americans love this sport so much. I cannot defend the players leading with their heads, but taking the big collisions out of football is a near impossible task.
Fines will work, but only if the penalty is big enough to have repercussions. The amounts being fined right now are so minuscule that the message is not getting sent. The first week of fines cost James Harrison $75,000, Brandon Meriweather $50,000, and Dunta Robinson $50,000. This was in week 6 and we are now in Week 13. The hits and fines keep piling up and nothing has changed about defenders leading with their heads. Suspensions are necessary to clean up the game and get back to the fundamentals of using your body and arms to tackle an offensive player.
Goodell has done a good job of cleaning up the off field issues with disciplinary actions that have opened the eyes of all players in the league. Altering the way players use their helmets as weapons will be a tough task, but changes needs to come from within. The league needs to set standards and send the message that using this technique will only hurt your health and the opponent’s health in the long run. Let’s face it: the defenders are still saying they will not change how they have always played the game.
Like the majority of America, I love the big hits as well, but I cannot condone using your head to make a tackle. Goodell needs to up the ante and punish these players where it makes sense—suspensions. Suspending guilty parties for a game would remove them from their teammates and they would lose a weeks pay. This would send a message across the league that playing the game dirty and cheap will hurt your team for far more than just 15 yards and pennies in the piggy bank.