Dunta Robinson was fined $50,000 by the NFL today, and his hit on DeSean Jackson was indeed terrifying. Both men stayed down for a while; both had to be helped to their respective locker rooms; both have been diagnosed with concussions. But now the question:
When did “terrifying” become the same as “illegal”?
The NFL announced today it will start suspending players for “egregious and elevated hits.” (This from Ray Anderson, the league’s director of football operations who was once a Falcon exec.)
On Monday, Anderson told Chris Mortensen of ESPN: “We can’t and won’t tolerate what we saw Sunday … These devastating hits and head shots with a very necessary higher standard of accountability … What we saw Sunday was disturbing. We’re talking about avoiding life-altering impacts.”
Thing is, Robinson’s hit wasn’t helmet-to-helmet. It was shoulder-pad-to-helmet. (It appeared helmet-to-helmet to everyone in the stadium, but replays indicated otherwise.) Robinson was penalized for hitting a defenseless receiver, which Jackson might not have been. He’d gotten his hands on the ball and taken a step and a half before Robinson slammed into him.
Understand: Nobody wants to see a guy’s life or his livelihood imperiled. But what exactly is the definition of “devastating”? Something that just looks bad? That makes the fans in the stands go “Ooh”? In a sport where the idea is to hit the other guy hard, is it possible to be penalized/suspended for hitting cleanly but too hard?
The NFL’s intent is noble. Its methodology will be unworkable. It is, lest we forget, the N-F-L. It’s not the National Flag Football League.
The Eagles’ reaction was instructive: Nobody was heard to call Robinson a headhunter or a taker of cheap shots. If anything, the Eagles were concerned about their man but also about the man who’d hit him. Two guys were playing hard. Too hard, apparently.