The NFL loves to talk about player safety. Roger Goodell has given endless speeches on the steps the league has take to make the game safer and protect the health of the players. The league has made great strides in penalizing dangerous helmet to helmet hits on defenseless receivers over the last decade, but they still have a long way to go.
Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather is one of the worst offenders of the league’s rules against helmet to helmet hits on defenseless receivers, and he has been fined multiple times for violations. Following his hits on Chicago Bears wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on Sunday, Meriweather was finally suspended two games by the league.
However, Meriweather filed an appeal and his suspension was reduced to one game yesterday. This is the latest case of the NFL failing to back up their talk on player safety with action, and at this point there is no reason to believe the league has any interest in protecting its players.
Earlier in the season, the league overturned the suspension of Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Dashon Goldson for helmet to helmet hits, despite the fact that he is a repeat offender and among the league leaders in personal fouls every season.
The league came up short again with its discipline of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for diving at the knees of Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan from behind. Suh is also a repeat offender and is the dirtiest player in the league, but he was not suspended and was instead handed a $100,000 fine, which is nothing for a player making $12 million this season.
The NFL’s failure to properly enforce safety rules is an embarrassment to the league, and something needs to change. The league needs to work with the NFLPA to devise a system of mandatory fines and suspensions that are far more severe than what is currently being enforced. If the league actually cares about player safety, then such a system is absolutely essential.
However, the consistent reduction and overturning of fines and suspensions is all the proof we need that the league doesn’t care about player safety, and their message on cleaning up the game is nothing more than empty talk.