Football fans and players alike love a bone crushing tackle, but after a weekend of scary incidents, the NFL is declaring enough is enough.
The league is expected to announce by October 20 that it will begin suspending players for "devastating hits" and "head shots," according to ESPN.
There were at least four major instances of helmet-to-helmet collisions in games over the weekend, a practice banned by the league because of their high injury rate. In perhaps the most violent episode, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson was leveled by the Atlanta Falcons' Dunta Robinson on a play that left both players unconscious and unable to leave the field under their own power. Each player sustained a concussion and Jackson will almost certainly miss the team's next game against Tennessee. Similar incidents occurred in the Ravens-Patriots, Browns-Steelers, and Broncos-Jets games.
"We can't and won't tolerate what we saw Sunday," said Ray Anderson, the league's executive vice president of football operations. "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. We have to dispel the notion that you get one free pass in these egregious or flagrant shots."
In the past the league has issued fines for first and second offenses on hits of this nature, but suspensions would indicate that the rhetoric is being matched by action.
"What we saw Sunday was disturbing," Anderson said. "We're talking about avoiding life-altering impacts."
In an incident not directly referenced by Anderson, Detroit Lions player Zack Follett had to be removed from the turf during a game with the New York Giants after a major collision on a kickoff return play. He showed no evidence of spinal injury and had movement in all extremities following the game. Ironically, Follett's injury occurred not far from where Rutgers lineman Eric LeGrand suffered a major spinal cord injury on a similar play during Saturday's game against Army. LeGrand is intensive care at at the Hackensack University Medical center and remains paralyzed from the neck down.
The NFL has shown serious interest in reducing the number of catastrophic hits after a spate of articles appeared last fall in publications as diverse as the New Yorker and GQ that questioned the league's commitment to player safety after concussions seemed to be on the rise. In recent years, there have been high-profile incidents involving former NFL players exhibiting erratic or destructive behavior that has been traced, at least in part, to brain injuries sustained during their playing days.