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:
TO NFL PLAYERS AND COACHES:
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.