The 10 Biggest Stories of the 2010 NFL Season, Number 1: Concussions, Fines & Suspensions

By Bryn Swartz

The number one NFL story from the 2010 season is the new policy the NFL adopted regarding helmet-to-helmet hits.

This season saw an unusually high number of concussions.

The Eagles, for example, lost former All-Pro middle linebacker and expected franchise quarterback Kevin Kolb on concussions in the first half of the first game of the season.

Combined with the concussions, as well as the extreme amount of helmet-to-helmet hits around the league, the NFL announced that suspensions are now possible for helmet-to-helmet hits.

The final straw was a Week 6, in which
1) DeSean Jackson of the Eagles was knocked out cold on an illegal hit by the Falcons’ Dunta Robinson (which also injured Robinson)

2) Todd Heap of the Ravens took a vicious hit from Patriots’ safety Brandon Meriweather,

3) Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi of the Browns received illegal hits from Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison

4) Brandon Lloyd of the Broncos took a blow from Jets safety Jim Leonhard.

Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, had the following comments to say about the hits:

“We can’t and won’t tolerate what we saw Sunday. We’ve got to get the message to players that these devastating hits and head shots will be met with a very necessary higher standard of accountability. We have to dispel the notion that you get one free pass in these egregious or flagrant shots. What we saw Sunday was disturbing. We’re talking about avoiding life-altering impacts.”

The most interesting thing about the new suspension policy this season is that it was clearly all talk.

In what was probably the closest in years the NFL has had to actual assault on the field, Andre Johnson punched Cortland Finnegan during a game and didn’t even receive a suspension.

Richard Seymour punched Ben Roethlisberger and didn’t receive a suspension.

Both received fines of $25,000.

Not one player has been suspended for a hit this season, despite countless fines to players like James Harrison, who has lost a total of $125,000 this season.

In my opinion, the NFL:

1) Wants to protect its popular players. Something tells me that the league would have reacted differently if the injuries occurred to players like Fernando Velasco, Scott Mruczkowski, Hamza Abdullah, Uche Nwaneri, and Jehuu Caulcrick. Even Leger Douzable, Damola Adeniji, Lemuel Jeanpierre, CJ Ah You, and Haruki Nakamura. wouldn’t have been enough to change the NFL’s rules. But when your injured players are names like DeSean Jackson, Joshua Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi, Todd Heap, and Brandon Lloyd, the league takes notice.

2) Needs to let the players know who the boss is. The NFL doesn’t necessarily need to suspend players like James Harrison for vicious hits. They just want the players to know that they COULD suspend players if they really wanted to. They haven’t yet and I don’t think they will unless there’s a really vicious hit. It’s just all about the power.

3) Truly is concerned about the amount of hits players are taking. After all, there have been an extreme amount of concussions recently and it’s not just all about keeping the good players healthy. It’s also about protecting everybody. Players these days are bigger and stronger than ever and some guys hit hard enough to paralyze a guy. When you have a player like James Harrison, who admits to trying to hurt players, you can’t just ignore it.

I am very interested to see how suspensions and fines are handled for the next few seasons.

My prediction: The NFL hands out a (one-game) suspension to a player for a hit next season, but the amount of fines (and concussions) will be reduced.

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