On Sunday, Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour was ejected for punching Ben Roethlisberger in the face. Today, the NFL announced his punishment: no suspension, but a $25,000 fine. He has not yet threatened retirement.
Seymour said that Roethlisberger "just ran up on me quick," and the punch was a "natural reaction." Last year, he racked up $17,500 in fines — $7,500 for pulling Denver's Ryan Clady's hair and $10,000 for hitting Browns running back Jerome Harrison after the whistle.
About a month ago, Roger Goodell fined Steelers linebacker James Harrison $75,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit against Cleveland's Mohamed Massaquoi. Harrison said after Sunday's game that he hoped Seymour "would hear from the league a lot worse than I did." He argued that he was "playing the game within the whistle," while Seymour "was way outside of it."
Is this a fair critique for Harrison to make? Can a sport like football have anything like a hierarchy of excessive violence? Seymour's punch, while ill-advised and rash, is more readily defensible because it's far from life-threatening. Roethlisberger was dazed, but he didn't add to this season's horrifying concussion tally or even miss a snap.
But there's really no argument that Seymour wasn't trying to hurt Roethlisberger on Sunday, and that that's any fundamentally different from an irresponsible hit. He did it outside of the play of a game that sanctions and celebrates a certain kind of violence. If the NFL wants to try and market a "cleaner" game, as impossible as that might be in a sport that is this dangerous, then it should treat all "dirty" play (especially among repeat offenders) with equal discipline.
But I guess that would just substantiate Brian Urlacher's new claim that Goodell is running a dictatorship.