The impact of the hit was so great that it sent Schaub’s helmet flying, along with a small piece of his ear lobe. And if you look closely enough in the banner pic above, you just might be able to make out that little ear chunk flying through the air. It was a gruesome sight to be sure, but Schaub toughed it out, missing only one play before returning to the field.
“I felt fine,” Schaub said. “I just lost a piece of my ear. I was bleeding and my helmet came off. So I had to come out for a play, but I was fine.”
As a repeat offender, Mays was also fined $50k for the hit, but he only appealed the suspension in hopes that he might be able to play in Sunday’s game against Oakland. Instead, the league has re-determined that Mays hit a defenseless Schaub in the head area with his own helmet after he had thrown the pass. Pretty obvious, really.
Mays has apologized to Schaub for the play, insisting he didn’t intend to hurt anyone, but will still have to sit this week out and think about what he’s done wrong.
GIFS AFTER THE JUMP
On the very day that Saints head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis are appealing their suspensions with the NFL for their involvement in the bounty scandal, Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports drops a bombshell that should effectively stop that appeal process in its tracks.
In it, Silver reveals that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams specifically directed his players to injure members of the 49ers prior to their post-season meeting in January, and made “hand gestures” signalling that he would pay money to whoever took out QB Alex Smith.
Silver got the audio from filmmaker Sean Pamphilon of the United States of Football, who had access to Saints team functions for much of the 2011 season while working on a documentary. The speech in question came during a defensive team meeting the night before the Jan. 15 playoff game, in which Williams delivers a profanity-laced tirade intended to inspire his troops to battle. It would be the Saints last game of the season, and Williams would be fired two days later.
Perhaps most damaging to the Saints cause is the timing of Williams’ speech, which would have come well after the NFL had alerted the Saints that they were looking into the bounty program, and right after the league re-opened the investigation and specifically directed owner Tom Benson and Loomis to put a stop to it. The 49ers game was just two weeks later, and while you can’t actually hear the hand gestures, Pahmphilon says he believes “there’s no doubt at all” that Williams put a bounty on Smith in the meeting. And if that’s the case, it means that Loomis and Payton – who were not present at the meeting – clearly didn’t take enough action in policing their own staff.
UPDATE: The Saints are already trying to paint Williams as a “rogue” coach on his way out the door, who acted in defiance of his superiors. It’s clear that Payton and Loomis are going to set Williams up as the fall guy in an effort to lessen their own punishments, but we’ll see how much water that holds with Roger Goodell.
The relevant audio from Williams speech is below, but here are a few of the more notable gems:
QUOTES AND AUDIO AFTER THE JUMP
The NFL finally handed down its punishment for the Saints bounty program today, and it’s about as severe as you’d expect from a commissioner trying to clean up the league’s violent image. Head coach Sean Payton has been suspended for one year without pay, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (now with the Rams) has been suspended indefinitely for their part in a system that gave out cash rewards to players for injuring opponents from 2009-2011.
As if that weren’t enough bad news for New Orleans fans, the Saints were also fined $500,000, and will forfeit their 2nd round picks in 2012 and 2013. Furthermore, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended for eight games, assistant head coach Joe Vitt has been suspended 6 games without pay, and individual player punishments are still forthcoming. All of the suspensions begin on April 1st except for Williams, whose suspension starts immediately.
You can read the complete release from the NFL here, but we’ll go ahead and highlight the most relevant sections:
“We are all accountable and responsible for player health and safety and the integrity of the game,” Commissioner Goodell said. “We will not tolerate conduct or a culture that undermines those priorities. No one is above the game or the rules that govern it. Respect for the game and the people who participate in it will not be compromised.”
In an unprecedented disciplinary move, the NFL has suspended Steelers’ LB James Harrison for one game following his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns QB Colt Mcoy last Thursday (VIDEO HERE). It was Harrison’s fifth illegal hit against a QB in the past three seasons, which qualifies Harrison as a “repeat offender” and therefore made him subject to suspension.
From the league’s official statement:
Harrison was penalized for roughing the passer in last Thursday night’s Steelers-Browns game for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit against a defenseless quarterback, Cleveland’s COLT MC COY. In addition to four fines for illegal hits against quarterbacks in 2009 and 2010, Harrison also was fined twice for unnecessary roughness during that period. Harrison totaled six fines in that two-year period.
The 2011 League Policies for Players manual states: “Players who were fined for violations in 2009 or 2010, and whose fines were either partially or fully upheld, will be considered second and/or repeat offenders under this policy.”
Prior to now, the league had only levied fined against players for such behavior, but Harrison has been the poster child for the league’s new policy against helmet-to-helmet hits for years now. Despite the fact that Harrison plans to appeal, there really is no defense for the way he lowered the crown of his helmet directly into McCoy’s facemask the way he did on this play. Roger Goodell had finally seen enough, and decided to drop the hammer.
Whether or not you agree with the legue’s crackdown on vicious hits, this is the NFL today … like it or not. And after years of fines and warnings, it’s clear that Harrison still just doesn’t get it. Maybe missing some actual game time will get through to him.
BONUS GIF OF THE HIT AFTER THE JUMP
The fallout from what is now being so creatively called “Tripgate” (ed note: Really people? It’s been 35 years since Nixon. We can’t come up with something more original by now? yeeesh) continued on Tuesday, when former Dolphins LB Zach Thomas suggested that the Jets deliberately formed a human wall on the play where Nolan Carroll was tripped by a member of the New York coaching staff. Chris Mortensen also reported that the league is investigating to determine whether the Jets were instructed to line up in that manner to restrict Carroll’s ability to use the sideline on punt coverage.
The Jets strength & conditioning coach, Sal Alosi, was suspended without pay for the remainder of the season and fined $25k by the club for tripping Carroll. He won’t receive any further punishment from the league, and will not be allowed contact with the team until after the final game of the year. Ironically enough, on game days, Alosi serves as the Jets “get back” coach, responsible for clearing players and personnel away from the action on the field.
Thomas went on Miami sports radio and said that the way the Jets players and coaches were positioned along the sidelines had to have been on purpose:
“They had to be ordered to stand there because they’re foot to foot,” Thomas said Tuesday on Miami radio station WQAM. “There’s four of them, side to side — five of them, I mean — on the edge of the coach’s zone. They’re only out there to restrict the space of the gunner.
It was actually six guys (5 inactive players plus Alosi) lined up in a row, and if you look at the tape, the way they’re positioned certainly does look a bit odd. Not to mention the fact that as Carroll comes in their direction, not one of them even flinches. On a previous Dolphins punt, Reshard Jones went flying into the Jets sideline and was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for not immediately returning to the field of play. So you have to wonder … were the Jets purposely defending their turf over there?
Let’s face it: Andre Johnson did the league a favor. When the all-pro WR beat Cortland Finnegan like he stole something during yesterdays Texans/Titans game, it somehow felt as though justice had been served.
Finnegan takes pride in being a dirty player. His entire game is getting inside his opponents’ heads until they finally snap and draw a penalty. The guy is a punk, plain and simple, who has openly boasted about wanting to be labeled the dirtiest player in the league. And so far this season, he’s done a fine job of building his reputation along those lines. But yesterday, Finnegan picked a fight with a much bigger dog, and he finally got what was coming to him. And as it happened, football fans around the world cheered.
Which is why it’s nice to hear that Johnson will not be suspended for his part in the brawl for it all, according to a report from Fox26. And the Houston Chronicle reports that both players have been fined $25k, but neither will face suspension for their actions. It actually seems like a particularly light slap on the wrist for both players from Roger Goodell, who up until now recently has handed out fines like Halloween candy. Richard Seymour was just fined the same amount last week for smacking down Ben Roethlisberger … and that was just one open-handed shot, while both were wearing helmets. So it seemed that a heavier punishment was in line for both players after their full-on brawl at the 40-yard line.
Johnson has been extremely contrite in apologizing for his actions yesterday, saying he simply lost his cool and would accept whatever punishment came his way. But Goodell apparently agreed with Mike Ditka, who went on the Mike and Mike radio show this morning and suggested that Johnson should be commended for his actions:
I wouldn’t suspend him. I would applaud him if I was the National Football League. Where does it say that if I snake bites you, you can’t step on the snake? And that’s exactly what happened to this kid.
That seems to be the general consensus.
WATCH THE FULL VIDEO OF THE BRAWL AFTER THE JUMP
The big story of the week in the NFL continues to be the brouhaha over violent hits in the game, and the league’s threat to begin suspending players who deliver flagrant blows to the head. The general consensus seems to be that yes, something needs to be done to protect players and prevent head injuries. But most people also tend to agree that in this sport, these types of collisions are an inevitable – and even an exciting & compelling – part of the game. So how do you strike a balance?
Ray Anderson, the NFL’s VP of Operations, followed up his controversial statement from earlier in the week with this video, which was sent to all 32 teams today to illustrate what the league considers to be a legal and illegal hit. The video includes highlights of the Meriweather hit and other examples of dangerous shots to the head, along with several “clean” plays that show how players can make hard, effective tackles without endangering anyone’s safety (well, any more than necessary … this is a contact sport, after all).
WATCH THE NFL PLAYER SAFETY VIDEO BELOW
In the video, Anderson states:
“Illegal hits to the head of an opponent will not be tolerated. A player is accountable for what he hits. Illegal techniques must be removed from our game. We all accept that football is a physical and tough game, but players must play under control. If a player launching into an opponent misses his aiming point, he will nevertheless be held responsible for what he hits.”
“Player safety is our highest priority,” Anderson says to his audience of coaches and players. “We’ve said publicly, and we will repeat to all of you, we will not apologize for or be defensive about aggressive enforcement to protect players from illegal and potentially life-altering blows to the head and neck.”
In the wake of a series of violent collisions during this past weekend’s games, three players have been fined, and the NFL has announced that – effective immediately – players will face suspension for illegal hits, with an emphasis on protecting defenseless players from blows to the head.
Steelers LB James Harrison, Patriots S Brandon Meriweather and Falcons CB Dunta Robinson were fined a total of $175k by the league for flagrant hits on Sunday that had normally bloodthirsty NFL fans collectively cringing and calling for reform. NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson stressed that no rules will be changed, but stated that there will be elevated accountability for illegal hits to the head:
“What we’re trying to make sure our players understand is that you should know the rules,” Anderson said. “The coaches know the rules, the players should know the rules. And so if you are in violations of the rules — particularly one of those trying to protect against head, neck injuries — we’re going to hold you to a higher standard.”
That’s all well and good, but the immediate question becomes where do you draw the line? These are bang-bang plays we’re talking about here, and defenders are simply doing their jobs by trying to deliver the hardest hit possible. The Meriweather and Harrison hits were definitely flagrant head shots, but Harrison (unbelievably) wasn’t even flagged on the plays, and you could easily argue that Robinson’s hit was clean (in fact, we named it our Hit Of The Week). In this sport, regardless of intention, blows to the head just seem inevitable … and unfortunately, so do the injuries that come along with them. That’s one of the main reasons these guys make so much money: NFL athletes put their bodies on the line every Sunday, and there is a very good chance that they could be hurt and suffer long-term repercussions.
Both Harrison and Robinson plan to appeal their fines, so right away there is some gray area here, and there’s bound to be a lot of backlash from players and coaches. UPDATE: It has already begun, and Bears All-Pro LB Brian Urlacher is among the early critics of the NFL’s new policy:
“It’s freaking football. There are going to be big hits. I don’t understand how they can do this after one weekend of hitting. And I can’t understand how they can suspend us for it. I think it’s a bunch of bull.
“You know what we should do? We should just put flags on everybody. Let’s make it the NFFL – the National Flag Football League. It’s unbelievable.”
UPDATE #2: Now James Harrison is threatening to retire from football rather than adjust the way he plays the game:
“I’m going to sit down and have a serious conversation with my coach tomorrow and see if I can actually play by NFL rules and still be effective,” Harrison said. “If not, I may have to give up playing football.
So basically, if Harrison can’t keep hurting people, there’s just no point for him anymore. What a nutjob. Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin excused Harrison from practice today “to cool off”, but expects him back at practice tomorrow.
WATCH VIDEO OF THE MERIWEATHER AND HARRISON HITS AFTER THE JUMP
Well, this isn’t really surprising, but today, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reduced Ben Roethlisberger’s six-game suspension to four games.
As we all know by now, Roethlisberger was suspended earlier this year after being accused of sexual assaulting a college student in Milledgeville, Georgia on March 5th. Although no charges were filed, Goodell elected to suspend Big Ben for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. But the Pittsburgh QB met with Goodell early this morning, when he learned he would be able to return to the team on October 17th, when the Steelers face the Cleveland Browns. During his suspension, Roethlisberger will not be allowed to visit the team facility or have any contact with Steelers coaches or personnel.
But don’t think Roethlisberger is completely off the hook. From NFL.com:
The league said the “reinstatement is contingent on Roethlisberger continuing to adhere to the program established by our advisors and avoiding any further violations of the personal conduct policy.”
“You have told me and the Steelers that you are committed to making better decisions,” Goodell said in a letter to Roethlisberger. “Your actions over the past several months have been consistent with that promise and you must continue to honor that commitment.
So that basically means Ben needs to stay away from bars, and keep it in his pants for the next six weeks. Let’s see if the big guy can make it happen!
Brief thought: The NFL currently suspends players at the beginning of the NFL season. A suspended player typically is allowed to train with their teams, and participate in training camp and preseason games. With the real games start, the suspension hits and the player misses anywhere from one to four (or more) weeks. In most cases, even with a rocky start, the player and his team have the entire rest of the season to recover. I don’t find this severe enough.
Case in point: If Big Ben wants to head down to Georgia and cause utter chaos during the offseason, he’s still back in the saddle by (probably) Week 5 of the 2010 NFL season (although if he botches up again, it could be later). Realistically, if the Steelers can get out of their first four games at 2-2 — even 1-3 — they’ll be fine.
I’d like to see the league play with the idea of suspending players at the end of the season. Or, perhaps a combination of two games to start the year and two games to end it.
Naturally, if a suspended player is trapped on a terrible football team, there’s less to lose if the team is 1-11 when a four-game suspension would commence.
On the flip side, it would make the game’s stars think twice about their behavior if they’re forced to bail on their teams in the critical final weeks of the season.
I don’t propose hanging a mistake over a player forever. There is something natural about paying your fine and moving on. With that aside, a system of late-season suspensions might have more impact on the game. I guess it all depends if the guilty party is on my team — or yours.