2011 NFL Predictions: 10 Players Who Will Be Fined This Season
The NFL has changed, and defensive players are feeling the effects the most.
Not being able to land the big hit or bring the quarterback to the ground in excessive fashion, defensive game-changers are trying to adapt to the "new" NFL and its strict rules for protecting its players.
While some players are having an easier time than others, these players are not and will undoubtedly face the consequences this season. While they continue to play the game the way they were taught, 2010 brought many fines and saw a major increase of injuries to players.
So with the 2011 season around the corner, it's time to sit back, relax and enjoy.
Week 1 is almost here.
Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears
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Already fined for delivering a brutal shot to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship Game last season, many believed Julius Peppers is lucky the fine wasn’t more after "putting the crown of his helmet directly into Rodgers' jaw."
After a season in which the NFL made cracking down on shots to the head of defenseless players a top priority, Peppers might've appeared to get away easy with the punishment. Not this season.
Finishing 2010 with 42 tackles and eight sacks, Peppers is well regarded for putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, redirecting running plays or assisting on tackles. He has become one of the elite pass-rushers in the NFL, and don't expect the threat of a fine to change the way he attacks quarterbacks.
The Chicago Bears signed Peppers to a six-year contract worth $91.5 million to be a defensive game-changer—by any means necessary. Don't expect Peppers to "lighten" up on defense.
It would be a shame if he did.
Brandon Meriweather, New England Patriots
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When thinking of a defensive back who likes to go for the big hit, Brandon Meriweather comes to mind.
Having been fined $50,000 for a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on the Baltimore Ravens' Todd Heap last season, Meriweather's style of play will certainly give the league plenty of opportunities for him to reach into his wallet in 2011.
Meriweather was named to the Pro Bowl last season, but he enters 2011 looking like the weak spot of the Patriots secondary. Meriweather prides himself on being aggressive and showing up on the highlight reel, but this year New England’s cornerback position is deeper than it has been in years.
The Patriots are happy with Meriweather not because of his reported but cleared involvement in a shooting, but rather his play on the field; Meriweather was benched occasionally last season, though. If he continues with the late hits, it won't be coach Bill Belichick who'll be benching Meriweather—it will be commissioner Roger Goodell.
James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers
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It's no secret James Harrison has been the poster boy of dirty hits and hefty NFL fines.
After the Steelers linebacker was fined $20,000 for a late hit on Saints quarterback Drew Brees in the Pittsburgh-New Orleans game on Halloween night, bringing his season total to $100,000, Harrison's agent—Bill Parise—expressed his feelings over the continuous punishment being handed out to his client:
"I understand the league is trying to make it safer for the players, but their plan isn't working. Why is James Harrison being fined every time he plays the way he was taught to play since he was a kid?"
I couldn't agree with him more. NFL Hall of Famers Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus, Ronnie Lott and Lawrence Taylor have paved the way for guys like Harrison to play the game with heart, emotion and aggressiveness.
Goodell is taking that away.
In all likelihood, Harrison is destined for multiple fines this season. The only question is, how long does it take for it to happen?
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
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From Joe Horn's phone call to Terrell Owens' Sharpie to Chad Ochocinco's requests to the NFL not to fine him, touchdown celebrations have gone by the wayside thanks to Commissioner Goodell.
But one player who has disregarded the notion of no longer celebrating in the end zone has been Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Becoming one of the league's most exciting players, Jackson has proved he's a threat to score every time he gets his hands on the football. While the league has always paid more attention to the prima donna wideouts in the league, expect Jackson to take his touchdown celebrations to a whole new level.
But it won't be without hearing from the league office.
A part of the game that has disappeared since the NFL voted to limit touchdown celebrations in 2009 will hopefully return this season thanks to Jackson.
Richard Seymour, Oakland Raiders
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Richard Seymour has made a name for himself as being one of the league's dirtiest players.
He was fined $7,500 in 2009 for pulling the hair of Denver Broncos offensive lineman Ryan Clady, and how can we forget about the punch he landed on Ben Roethlisberger last year, drawing a $25,000 fine many thought should have been much larger?
If Seymour is willing to punch one of the league's top quarterbacks without any hesitation, don't expect him to shy away from any late hits or squabbles, even if the consequences are harsh.
Seymour gave the NFL a great reason to get fined in 2010; I expect him to give the league a few more in 2011.
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit Lions
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It didn't take long for commissioner Roger Goodell to hand out the first fine of 2011.
The victim was Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was fined for a hit that, not long ago, was a regular part of the game.
Suh was tagged with a $20,000 fine for his hit on Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Penalized for what was deemed a late hit, Suh was flagged with a personal foul. There is no denying the hit was late, but under no circumstance should it have been considered a dirty play warranting a fine.
Fined for the third time before his second regular season has even begun, Suh is earning the reputation of being a dirty player. Suh will have a bull's-eye on his back in 2011 and will be watched for every hit he puts on the quarterback. If he was fined for tackling a rookie quarterback, I can't imagine what Goodell is going to have to say after he puts a hit on Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees.
We know the NFL loves to protect its quarterbacks. Maybe it's time it starts protecting its defensive players by allowing them to play the game the way it's supposed to be played.
Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans
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The Tie Domi of the NFL has been known to get under the skin of his opponents.
Just ask Andre Johnson, who would know a thing or two about that.
If Finnegan's on your team, you love him. If not, you hate him.
Making a career out of being an instigator, both verbally and physically, Finnegan never shies away from taking swings at the opposition.
You can ask Hines Ward about that.
If he isn’t being fined for getting into altercations on the field, Finnegan’s being fined for hits like the one he put on the Giants' Steve Smith last year, which earned him a $5,000 fine. Finnegan is never going to change the way he plays the game, so 2011 will just end up being an expensive season for him.
Chad Ochocinco, New England Patriots
This one is interesting.
Now that the king of Twitter has a new home in New England, let's expect Chad Ochocinco to let everyone know what life in New England is all about.
Despite toning down his touchdown celebration theatrics in 2010, Ochocinco disregarded the NFL’s new Twitter policy last year and was fined $25,000 for tweeting during a preseason game.
Bill Belichick might not even be able to stop Ochocinco from tweeting.
For his sake, I hope he doesn't. It's going to be a pretty boring season on the computer for Ochocinco if he does.
Manny Lawson, Cincinnati Bengals
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Already a repeat offender, Manny Lawson made headlines in 2010 after he was fined $12,500 for "unnecessarily striking the opposing quarterback in the chest area with his helmet."
Although NFL referee Scott Green did not penalize Lawson for his hit on Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, the league office felt differently—another example of the NFL protecting its quarterbacks.
Having an excessive drive and desire to get to the quarterback, combined with no regard for the consequences from the league, there's no denying Lawson will be fined in 2011.
The only question is, how much is he going to need to pay?
Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh Steelers
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Having been let off the hook for his questionable hits in the past—including his helmet-to-helmet hit on Willis McGahee during the 2009 AFC Championship Game—Clark should expect to be punished in 2011 since the league is paying closer attention to dirty hits now more than ever.
This season, Clark will not likely walk away from any late or "dirty" hits without hearing from the league office. The spotlight is going to be on James Harrison and the Steelers this season, so Clark might be hearing from Commissioner Goodell more often than not.