Suspensions for NFL players who commit helmet-to-helmet hits on "defenseless" players are coming, beginning this Sunday, like it or not.
NFL football operations executive Ray Anderson told ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" earlier today that following a weekend of vicious hits to the head the league is going to act.
"We are committed to safety at the highest level," he said. "We're not going to be apologetic, we're not going to be defensive about it."
The league suffered a rash of helmet-to-helmet hits over the weekend. Brandon Meriweather of New England on Todd Heap of Baltimore, Dunta Robinson of Atlanta on DeSean Jackson of Philadelphia and James Harrison of Pittsburgh twice on Cleveland Browns players.
Here is the Meriweather hit.
The league is concerned not only about the hits, but about the attitude of defensive players who are cavalierly shrugging off fines. Former player Rodney Harrison, fined more than $200,000 in his career for excessive hits, exemplified that attitude. He got suspended once for a helmet-to-helmet hit in 2002.
"You didn’t get my attention when you fined me 5 grand, 10 grand, 15 grand," he said during the pregame broadcast for "Sunday Night Football." "You got my attention when I got suspended and I had to get away from my teammates and I disappointed my teammates from not being there. But you have to suspend these guys. These guys are making millions of dollars."
Anderson told "Mike & Mike" that the league feels it must go further to get players to live within the rules.
"We've got to get the message to players that these devastating hits and head shots will be met with a very necessary higher standard of accountability," Anderson said. "We have to dispel the notion that you get one free pass in these egregious or flagrant shots."
That likely won't sit well with all defensive players. That feeling has already been expressed by James Harrison, who defended his hits against the Browns.
"If I get fined for that, it’s going to be a travesty," Harrison said. "They didn’t call (a penalty) on that. There’s no way I could be fined for that. It was a good, clean, legit hit. … I didn’t hit that hard, to be honest with you. When you get a guy on the ground, it’s a perfect tackle."
I would expect that games around the NFL this Sunday will be flag-fests. Anything that even looks like a hit to the head is going to draw a penalty. Like it or not.