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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 10/18/2010

NFL's former director of officiating calls for action after day of helmet-to-helmet hits

By Cindy Boren

The announcement was repeated with frightening frequency for about two hours Sunday in press boxes at NFL games across the country: "Will not return (head injury)."

There was a staggering number of helmet-to-helmet hits, particularly in the 1 p.m. games, and one of the scariest was the collision between DeSean Jackson of the Eagles and Dunta Robinson of the Falcons. Robinson, the Falcons would only say, has a head injury. Jackson has his second concussion -- a severe one resulting in some memory loss, according to Fox's Jay Glazer -- in less than a year.

Mike Pereira, the NFL's former vice-president of officiating and now a Fox contributor, wrote of the day's action:

I am really bothered by the number of helmet-to-helmet hits we saw in Week 6 and the subsequent concussions that were caused as a result of those hits. Some of them were legal, and some were unavoidable. But, plain and simple, they are cheap shots, and the league needs to deal with this immediately.

The lengthy injury report is sure to provoke questions about whether players should face more than fines for helmet-to-helmet contact. One former player and ex-coach favored suspensions for players.

"I've had plenty hits like this and fining me $5 or $10 grand really didn't affect me," Rodney Harrison said on "Sunday Night Football." "But I got to a point where they suspended me and I knew the effect on my teammates, the disappointment of me not being out there; not the $100,000 that got taken away from me, but the fact that I wasn't out there. That's what they are going to have to do if they want to change the nature of these hits. You have to suspend guys."

Tony Dungy: "I agree with Rodney. It's not the fine. Dunta Robinson, I don't think he meant to do this. But DeSean Jackson, may not play for a couple of weeks. If you take that playing time away, that's how you stop it."

At least one player doesn't agree with Harrison, though. "It's just part of the game," said Eagles cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who suffered a broken neck last season. "Someone gets hurt, I always say, 'The show continues.' For that 10 to 15 minutes, everything stops and everything is standing still. But once that guy gets up, whether he's wheeled off or carried off or walks off on his own power, I think the show continues.

"There's no hard feelings for anybody. I've been in that position. That's just the nature of the game and that's how it goes."

In addition to Robinson and Jackson, New England's Julian Edelman, Cleveland's Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs (both thanks to the Steelers' James Harrison) went out after helmet-to-helmet hits . Todd Heap suffered a shoulder stinger in a helmet-to-helmet hit by Brandon Meriweather but at least was able to return to the game. Chris Cooley of the Redskins went out with a concussion after, according to Fred Davis, he took a head shot from a Colts player. (Dan Steinberg and Redskins Insider have more on this.)

In New Jersey, there was the specter Zack Follett being carted off the field after a helmet-to-helmet left him lying motionless on the field. He was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center and recovered feeling and movement in his extremities.

Heaven was bombarded with prayer request and they were heard! Thank you and much love to all you showing your support. I'm ok. Thank Godless than a minute ago via Echofon

So are suspensions the answer as the NFL struggles with making a dangerous game as safe as possible?

"I don't see a lot of cheap shots. This is just hard, aggressive, hard-nosed football," said Andy Reid, whose players have had six concussions since training camp. "These things are going to happen in this sport. Again, this isn't tiddlywinks. This is a violent sport and things are going to happen every once in a while. The league's doing a good job, but guys are bigger and faster and flying around."


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By Cindy Boren  | October 18, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  NFL  
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Next: Rutgers player, paralyzed from neck down, begins his recovery


violent hits are always going to be part of the game, and Rodney Harris is right .. fines don't stop any players (regardless of the sport) from doing things that get them into trouble. when you have players making millions each year, $10,000 is pocket change. in that same conversation Cindy quoted, Harris stated that he purposely set aside $50,000 at the beginning of the season just for fines. if you want to change behavior, suspend them, or increase the fines to something that really matters.

Posted by: m114b | October 18, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

helmet to helmet hits are caused by poor tackling and coaching...that starts from high school now because violent hits get you on sports center...suspension and fines are only a start and that falls on the players is a violent game that can still be played cleanly but isnt because penalties are not enforced...

Posted by: wmnatzakanian | October 18, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I understand what the NFL is trying to do. Which is commendable. This is a violent game played by violent men at a frightening speed. The only true way to eliminate these types of hits is to start playing two hand touch.

Posted by: tsamm | October 18, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Finally, sad news - Rutgers defensive lineman Eric Legrand was paralyzed from the neck down after a violent collision at the weekend. Legrand has a long recovery riad. It is never certain that we will never walk again. Just ask the former Penn State player Adam Taliaferro. Deshawn Jackson Injury

Posted by: susan166 | October 18, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

This may be counterintuitive, but I have a possible solution. Eliminate the helmets. I guarantee guys won't be flying in head first if they don't have those hard as rock helmets on. Or scale them down and scale the shoulder pads down so these guys actually have to tackle people rather than launch at them.

Posted by: AsstGM | October 18, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I agree with AsstGM. I guarantee that players will have second thoughts about launching themselves at each other if they're not encased in plastic armor. Rugby players don't have nearly the number of incidents of catastrophic injury as NFL players for that reason...the real problem of course, is that crushing collisions make for good television and television $$ is the name of the game.

Posted by: cidcamp70 | October 18, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Game suspensions rather than fines makes sense for the flagrant hits - but a lot of the injuries are coming from what appear to be simply fast players hitting hard, not necessarily illegally.

I saw an article a while back on going back to no helmets - the theory being that the protective equipment is becoming the weapon. While no helmets seems extreme, maybe they should look at less armor cladding.

Posted by: West_Seattle | October 18, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

1. Eliminate the helmet (as posted above) and reduce the shoulder pads: They should experiment with this.

2. Create a class of penalty that revolves around aggravated hits. No launching, lifting the elbow, leading with the shoulder excessive slamming etc. during a block or tackle. All contact needs to be initiated with the hands. Wrapping up is a legal tackle, flying shoulder first into a ball carrier is a penalty.

3. Create a concept of penalty time, that leads to ejection and suspension. 1 bad hit = the player misses the rest of the quarter and your team is on notice. Next bad hit and the player is out for the game.

4. If a player is significantly injured, the injuring player may have to miss games until the injured player is healthy enough to return.

Some combination of rules like this would dramatically change the type of hits players would make.

Posted by: gconrads | October 18, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

What about designing a slower playing surface as well as using less player equiment like rugby players as stated earlier by previous posts?

Posted by: csmith148 | October 21, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

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