Last week, New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was fined $7,500 for a hit that pretty much everyone on the planet—except for the referee who a threw a flag at him—agreed was a textbook tackle. The commissioner's office felt this was a perfectly reasonable response as part of its effort to protect the safety of the players and the integrity of the game. It wasn't a until few days later, however, that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell thought to himself, "Hmm. Maybe I should take a look at this thing" and actually watched the footage of the hit. Only then was the fine rescinded and all was right with the world—except for the fact no one in the NFL has any idea what's going on or how to act.Arizona's Adrian Wilson had a similar hit on Trent Edwards earlier in the year, with two differences—there was no penalty called and Edwards had to leave the game. Wilson got fined $25,000. Chad Greenway, Jared Allen and (more famously) Hines Ward are among those who have also been fined for hits that didn't draw penalties in the game. (Even if maybe they should have.) And now comes the tale of Cincinnati's Andrew Whitworth and Jacksonville’s John Henderson who were each given identical $10,000 fines for fighting, even though the fight started when Withworth was heading back to huddle after getting his helmet ripped off and Henderson attacked him from behind and started gouging his eyes.
The NFL is rightfully concerned about the safety of its players, but its system for dishing out punishment—when, to whom, and for how much money—is so secretive and confusing that players have no idea how to behave on the field anymore, which in some sense makes them less safe. (And pisses them off.) "Any conduct that unnecessarily risks the safety of other players has no role in the game of football and will be disciplined at increased levels," says Godell, except ... isn't simply playing football unsafe? And aren't those hard hits that make all the highlight packages part of what sells the game? Someone please provide a simple explanation of this bloodsport so that I know whether to cheer or shake my head in disapproval the next time a quarterback gets steamrolled after the whistle.
Big hits create bigger confusion these days in NFL [AP/Google] John Henderson, Dirtiest Player in Football [Sporting News] Whitworth blasts fine fairness [Cincy Inquirer]