NFL fines three, will start handing out suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits

NFL officials announced Tuesday that three players have been fined for helmet hits this past Sunday and, beginning this week, players can be suspended for violent tackles where their helmet makes contact with an opponent's helmet.

Winslow Townson/AP Photo
Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap, left, takes a hit from New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather, right, during an NFL football game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. on Oct. 17. The NFL will immediately begin suspending players for dangerous and flagrant hits that violate rules, particularly those involving helmets.

After a pro football Sunday where several players were injured by violent tackles, the NFL has fined three players and decided to start handing out suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits. reported Tuesday Steelers linebacker James Harrison was fined $75,000 for a pair of helmet hits. The Patriots' Brandon Meriweather and Dunta Robinson of Atlanta were each fined $50,000 for helmet or near-helmet hits.

Ray Anderson, the league's vice president of football operations, told the Associated Press Tuesday suspensions will be in place for this weekend's games and the NFL could still mete out punishment for last week's game action.

In the past, players were either fined or ejected from games for illegal hits. But, after last Sunday's injuries, the league decided to increase the penalties.

There were four big hits last Sunday that brought attention to the matter. They included a helmet-to-helmet hit by Meriweather on Baltimore tight end Todd Heap, a violent collision between the Eagles' DeSean Jackson and Robinson and Harrison knocking both Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi of the Browns out of the game between the two AFC North rivals.

The NFL is not only looking at helmet-to-helmet contact, but blows to the head area with arms and shoulders.

"We're certainly concerned," said Anderson to the AP. "The fundamentally old way of wrapping up and tackling seems to have faded away. A lot of the increase is from hits to blow guys up. That has become a more popular way of doing it."

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told the AP more needed to be done.

"I'm all for player safety," Tomlin said Tuesday. "I think it is the proper initiative that the NFL has. I think we need to safeguard the men that play this game to the best of our abilities and make it as safe as we can."

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