Hefty Fines, Possible Suspensions Should Help NFL Cut Down on Head Shots

The fines that the NFL normally hands out for head shots and unnecessary roughness penalties are usually a joke.  Before Sunday, it wasn’t uncommon for a player to be fined anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 for an illegal or dangerous hit during a game.  Take into account the fact that most of these guys make millions, and you get a vision of a player laughing sarcastically while writing a check.  That’s assuming the team even makes the player pay it.

While it may come as a shock to some, the NFL got serious about punishing players for head shots on Monday.  Pittsburgh’s James Harrison was fined $75,000 for his hit on the Browns’ Mohamed Massaquoi, Atlanta’s Dunta Robinson was fined $50,000 for his hit on DeSean Jackson, and New England’s Brandon Meriweather was fined $50,000 for a brutal helmet-to-helmet shot on Baltimore’s Todd Heap.

Heap was able to return to the game after Meriweather cracked him, but Massaquoi was forced to leave with a concussion as were both Robinson and Jackson after their collision.  But how much of a hole will the fines burn in the players’ pockets?  For Meriweather and Harrison, a pretty significant one.

Robinson has a base salary of $5 million, so the $50,000 fine he was given represents only a small portion of his salary.  However, the fines to Meriweather and Harrison make up more than a full game check.  Granted, Harrison has a huge extension waiting to kick in, but the sum of the fines is a step in the right direction for the league.

No one can say for sure whether the players’ organizations will cover the fines, but I can tell you Bill Belichick yanked Meriweather from the game after his hit on Sunday and could be seen saying something along the lines of, “I don’t want to hear it” to his safety.

I realize NFL players make a ton of money, but you’re going to think about doing something again if it costs you more than 1/17th of your salary — I don’t care who you are.  This is obviously a safety concern for the NFL, so it’s good to see them finally handing out more than a slap on the wrist.  Hopefully suspensions will be the next step.

Photo: Mel Evans/AP Photo

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  • Anonymous

    Give em all leather helmets. It’ll stop

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ON2Q3PFLNA6D7X45KFWMIQOTVY Eric Z

    Does this mean Harrison’s hit was worse than the others or is he getting hit with a bigger fine because he has been fined in the past? I would have rated the hit on Heap worse.

  • Anonymous

    Good question, Eric. I probably should have addressed that. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but Harrison also hit Joshua Cribbs helmet-to-helmet on a running play and gave him a concussion. The hit was legal by NFL rules since Cribbs was a ball carrier and not a receiver, but I think it’s safe to say the NFL decided to tack on a few extra thousand because he concussed two players in one game. Not saying its right, but they have a wacky way of doing things.

  • http://larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    I think it’s all nothing but a P.R. move. Fines and suspensions won’t change how these guys play. And if they do, then the game will become even more slanted towards offenses than they are now. I don’t believe these guys are doing it intentionally — they’re trying to make plays and tackle elite offensive players.