Friday, November 5, 2010

NFL Fines Are Based On Labor Issues

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 10:  Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball against the Tennessee Titans during the game at Heinz Field on September 10, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Troy Polamalu
This morning, a reader asked me to comment on Troy Polamalu's comments in the Pittsburgh Post Gazzette.  Polamalu spoke about Commissioner Goodell and player fines. The Steelers DB states to the Post Gazette; "But, you know, he's got all the power; that may be part of the problem, that there needs to be some type of separation of power like our government. There should be some type of players involved in decisions over how much people should be fined or what they should be fined for, as well as coaches, as well as front office people." My initial reaction was he was just backing teammate James Harrison, who was fined a total of $95,000 in the last two games for what the league terms 'illegal hits'. I dismissed his comments as another player whining about the league fining players, and prepared to write on that. I was going to say something smart-ass about the Steelers and point out that New England Patriot D-lineman Myron Pryor was able to lay a perfectly legal hit on Brett Favre last week, and not get fined.


Reports have the NFL fining Pryor $7500 for his hit on Favre, which was termed by Mike Pereira as 'perfectly legal' in his Fox Sports piece. Pereira was the NFL's Vice President of Officiating from 2004-09. Needless to say, he knows what he is talking about. The league offices think otherwise. In their statement to teams on October 20, Goodell outlined the league's policy in the following memo:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell notified teams today that more significant discipline, including suspensions, will be imposed on players that strike an opponent in the head or neck area in violation of the rules.

A memo to the clubs from Commissioner Goodell was accompanied by a message and video to NFL players and coaches. The head coach of each club has been instructed to show the video and read the message to his players and coaching staff as soon as possible. The video includes examples of illegal hits and legal hits under NFL rules.

“One of our most important priorities is protecting our players from needless injury,” Commissioner Goodell said. “In recent years, we have emphasized minimizing contact to the head and neck, especially where a defenseless player is involved. It is clear to me that further action is required to emphasize the importance of teaching safe and controlled techniques, and of playing within the rules. It is incumbent on all of us to support the rules we have in place to protect players.”
The enhanced discipline will be imposed even in cases of a first offense, including the possibility of suspension for first-time offenders, the clubs were told.

Following is the message to be read to all coaches and players:

One of our highest priorities is player safety. We all know that football is a tough game that includes hard contact. But that carries with it an obligation to do all that we can to protect all players from unnecessary injury caused by dangerous techniques from those who play outside the rules.
The video shown today shows what kind of hits are against the rules, but also makes clear that you can play a hard, physical game within the rules.

Violations of the playing rules that unreasonably put the safety of another player in jeopardy have no place in the game, and that is especially true in the case of hits to the head and neck. Accordingly, from this point forward, you should be clear on the following points:
1. Players are expected to play within the rules. Those who do not will face increased discipline, including suspensions, starting with the first offense.
2. Coaches are expected to teach playing within the rules. Failure to do so will subject both the coach and the employing club to discipline.
3. Game officials have been directed to emphasize protecting players from illegal and dangerous hits, and particularly from hits to the head and neck. In appropriate cases, they have the authority to eject players from a game.

Maybe there is something to Palomalu's thoughts. The League is quite literally pounding away at the severe hit issue, but why? Perhaps there is something bigger going on here? Clearly, the NFL is out of control with the fining of players. Periera's opinion on the hit is a more than acceptable interpretation of the rules by a respected official. If you look at the hit like Oliver Stone analyzing The Zapruder Film (back, and to the left...), you can clearly see that Pryor's contact with Favre is in his chest. The movement of the two players causes Pryor's helmet to ride up Favre's chest, striking him in the chin. Up, and to the chin... (somewhere, there's a joke here about Favre's chin and a Jay Leno reference)

This may be an attempt by the league to draw more attention to the violence of the hits. They may be prepared to lose an appeal by Pryor, knowing full well how much press they will get out of the issue. The feeling here is this is all about the forthcoming labor negotiations.  I have stated before, the league wants to show the players in the upcoming labor talks that they are intent on reducing injuries in order to get an 18 game schedule. Patriots owner Robert Kraft stated in a recent Forbes Magazine interview, that the league must expand to 18 games in order to have more revenue to share with the players. He also stated the deal must get done sooner than later, as both parties will lose in a lockout.

In Article VIII, section 8.6, Detrimental Conduct, of the Legue Bylaws, the commissioner has the authority "as he deems necessary and proper in the best interests of the League, or professional football..." In this case, it seems the best interest of the League is to get 18 games out of the players, even if that means watering down the contact aspect of the sport. Perhaps the QB's should just don flags, or have the QB be down by contact, any contact? Two hand touch, perhaps? No. The NFL obviously is already negotiating with the players, right in front of us, every Sunday, and it doesn't look good.


  1. Well, this one requires a comment so here goes. As a fan of the NFL, i simply must say, CUT THE CRAP..!
    Seriously, give me a break. Maybe this is all about the upcoming labor talks, maybe it's about showing the players who's boss. Maybe it's just more feminizing of football.
    Before you just dismiss that last statement, consider this. Pink. Every damn sunday we get to watch every player on every team add some pink to there uniforms... I HATE PINK..! Furthermore, there are no uniforms in the NFL that are color compatable with pink, ON PURPOSE..!!! I'm all for them promoting causes, but please, give me a break with the pink crap.
    Then you have to look at the trends of the rule changes. They get more strict every year in an effort to "minimize injuries". So we are told, but i say Bull Hockey..!
    The NHL tried to make it's product more family friendly several years ago by "reducing the violence" of the sport... The result: a drop in tv ratings and fan attendance league wide...
    Basically, no new fans were interested in the sport, and fans of the game became disenfanchised... yes, that typo was on purpose...
    Let's face facts here folks. Why do we watch sporting events on tv in the first place.? Answer: to be entertained
    What's entertaining about sports.?
    Answer: you never know what is going to happen
    Why don't we know.?
    Answer: because sports is based on competition
    What is a competition..?
    Answer: a rivalry between two or more persons or groups for an object desired in common, resulting in a victor who gains the prize and a loser who does not.
    When you have two or more people competing for the same thing, and only one can have it, violence is likely to ensue. We all know it, we all understand it, and we are all entertained by it. If you don't agree with this, you probably don't watch sports, you probably found this webpage by accident, and if you are a guy you need to go, your girlfriend wants to go shopping again...
    Currently, the NFL is enjoying near record tv ratings and game attendance... in my opinion, they need to back WAY OFF..! To quote the chief warrant officer who used to run the motor pool in my Army unit: "if it is working son, don't screw with it..."

  2. I disagree about intention, I think is stems from the league emphasising offense and big plays to enhance personas to the media and to stimulate the fantasy league trends. Quarterbacks need more time to sit and read, recievers need more free space to catch in order to make those big spectacular plays. If it were for the reasons you stated or generic player safety, the O line play would be emphasised, cut blocks made illegal, and chop blocks being punished as severely as a helmet to helmet to a "helpless" reciever. The entire defensive philosophy here is through fear and intimidation, make those recievers never even try to extend themselves to catch a pass, especially over the middle. They would pay for it with flesh. So they would develop alligator arms and slap the QB for even throwing a high one their way. Same with the QB, its drop, read, read, throw. That fast, or you are supposed to get killed.

    The league is trying to take that away. They have eliminated the two very best plays in all of football, for all intent. The blind side sack and the anhialation of an exteded reciever up the middle are all but a thing of the past, and the result is the deminished ability of a defense through intimidation, impose their will onto their opponent. This is a sad loss for the game.

  3. Shirtsleeve: I don't disagree with your statement, to a point. I don't think the league is interested in the 'blue collar' guys who toil in the trenches, the practice squad players, or the 2nd and 3rd string guys. I think they are interested in keeping the Mannings, Bradys, and other stars upright for 18 games. The guys on the line, as far as most fans are concerned, and therefore the league, are anonymous. The league needs the stars healthy for 18 games. Otherwise, we have exactly what we have now...pre-season games filled with guys who lack name recognition.


Comments welcome. Let 'er rip!