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Consistency, Please

Consistency, Please

Credit: AP

St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Renardo Foster, right, and St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long, left, sack San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the first quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

by Steve Savard

KMOV.com

Posted on October 19, 2010 at 4:35 PM

(KMOV)-- The NFL went to great lengths in the offseason to make sure players, coaches and media understood that the league would crack down on hits to the head. And it makes sense to protect all players, not just quarterbacks. There is more and more clinical evidence linking concussions to long term disabilities and mental health problems.  But six weeks into the 2010 season, the NFL is now scrambling to enforce the new rules.

The problem is there is no consistency from one officiating crew to another when it comes to penalizing dangerous hits. We saw it first hand with the hit that Kevin Burnett put on Sam Bradford Sunday.  There was no flag thrown but that hit, like several others from around the league in week six, will draw a fine. That makes no sense. How can you penalize a player for something that wasn’t deemed outside the rules by the game officials?

The explanation given by Referee Scott Green was that Bradford had left the pocket and had become a runner. Fine. I get it. But Burnett launched his body into Bradford and made helmet to helmet contact, leading with his head. That is exactly the type of hit the NFL said it would outlaw. The NFL said it will penalize any hit to the head made by a player leading with his helmet or shoulder. That is exactly what Burnett did. I certainly hope the NFL is reviewing every one of these “blown” calls with their officials. If the league feels a fine is mandated despite no penalty call then the officiating crew has to be held accountable.

The league is now threatening players with suspensions. Rodney Harrison, infamous in these parts for his hit on Trent Green, said suspensions will be the only real deterrent. He should know. He was as guilty of questionable hits as anyone who played in the NFL since Jack Tatum. But if the NFL is going to suspend players, maybe it should consider suspending officials who lack the common sense to enforce the rules.

I think it must be really tough to play defense in the NFL these days. It is a game of controlled violence and big hits are encouraged. But, there’s way too much gray area. And to be fair, it must be getting tougher and tougher to be a game official. All the more reason for the NFL and its officials to make sure they’re on the same page.               
 

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