NFL officials announced Monday their plans of “cracking down” on illegal and often health hazardous hits made during football games. The NFL plans to enforce harsher penalties, including the possibilities of suspending offenders from games.

The announcement came less than 24 hours following a day filled with several devastating hits, one of which was made on Ravens star tight end Todd Heap during a matchup with the New England Patriots. NE safety Brandon Meriweather delivered a deliberate helmet shot to the forehead of Heap as he attempted to catch a pass over the middle of the field. The Patriots were instantly penalized for 15 yards for Meriweather’s unnecessary hit, but the NFL says that’s not enough.

“We need to dispel the notion that you get a free pass for a first offense,” NFL Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson said in a released statement. “We’re going to another level of accountability.”

Anderson, among others, believes that level of accountability will come with time away from the game. Former Patriots star Rodney Harrison, one of the most hard hitting players in league history, suggests that’s the only way you’ll get some players to respect the safety regulations regarding dangerous hits to the head and neck.

You didn’t get my attention when you fined me five grand, 10 grand, 15 grand,” said Harrison, who now serves ass a TV analyst on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” telecast. “You got my attention when I got suspended and I had to get away from my teammates and I disappointed my teammates not being there. But you have to suspend these guys. These guys are making millions of dollars. until the NFL takes time and says, ‘You know what, we’re going to really protect our players. We’re going to suspend these guys, not one game but possibly two or more games.’”

But some current players think officials shouldn’t tamper with rules of tackling any more than they’ve already been tampered with.

“This game always been violent,” said Washington Redskins tailback Clinton Portis. “People like to see the mano a mano side of things. Like to see people collide. That’s what makes football … the greatest is the violent side.”

But the ugliest and most tragic moments of NFL history come from that violent side, too. Former NFL legend Jack Tatum is known as one of scariest players ever because of how hard he would hit opponents. But during one game back in 1978, he hit former Pats receiver Darryl Stingley so hard, the collision broke Stingley’s neck, leaving him a quadriplegic for life until he died in 2007 at age 55.

Anderson wants to make sure those moments are avoided as much as possible in the future.

“We feel compelled to be aggressive and proactive,” Anderson stated. “We don’t want another Darryl Stingley on one of our fields.”

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor