As I'm sure all National Football League fans know by now, Commissioner Roger Goodell and other officials around the league have made a point recently of stressing efforts to improve player safety. Personally, I think all the new efforts that are being taken to prevent and effectively treat head injuries are great, but a piece of news came out of the NFL Tuesday that left me puzzled, to say the least.
Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed was penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders during Sunday's game and was subsequently punished by the league for the third time since the 2009 season. That's all completely understandable, but what got me was the fact that he appealed the one-game without-pay suspension he was given by the league and won.
He's still being punished with a $50,000 fine, but the suspension has been lifted. Why, when so many players like Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth were all suspended and had those suspensions upheld for repeat offenses and very similar hits, was Reed's suspension lifted?
I've heard all kinds of possible explanations floating around for that from the fact that Reed simply isn't considered a "headhunter" like Harrison and Suh are -- which is true -- to the comments from some that Reed simply got special treatment because league officials like him. I don't know what the reason for the suspension being overturned was, but I don't agree with it.
The NFL's new rules on hits to a defenseless player clearly state what the penalties are supposed to be for repeat offenses, so I think they should be consistent. If a player gets flagged and punished by the league multiple times as Reed has, then that player should be suspended, regardless of who it is that made the illegal hit.
I mean, come on. In a game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 16, Golden Tate delivered a brutal block on Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee that didn't even draw a flag. Granted, that was when the replacement officials were still working NFL games and they couldn't get much of anything right, but I couldn't believe that Tate was fined $21,000 by the league for a hit that didn't even result in a penalty, yet the third hit since 2009 that did result in a penalty as soon as it happened by Reed isn't going to come with a suspension.
That doesn't make much sense, if you ask me.
But honestly, that's not the worst part of this situation. I was doing a little bit more reading on the Reed situation Wednesday and it turns out, Reed still thinks he's getting shafted.
On Wednesday, Reed told the Baltimore Sun, "It really needs to be discussed for a fine to come down like that so harshly for that hit." Apparently, based on what I read beyond that quote, Reed is now claiming that when he lowered his head and ran as hard as he could with the crown of his helmet into Sanders' face and neck, it was an inadvertent hit and he was "going for the ball."
I get it that football is a contact sport and things like this are going to happen, but Ed Reed has shown the exact pattern of vicious, illegal hits that the league is stepping up and trying to prevent. As long as guys aren't getting permanently injured, I have no problem with hard hits, but I just think there needs to be some consistency here.
Reed went on to say that not only was his suspension too much, but the $50,000 fine he's now stuck with was, too. He told the Sun that he was worried about being pegged as a dirty player, but honestly, I don't see that happening.
And even if it does, wouldn't he kind of deserve it? Every time Reed has been punished for a hit, it was illegal.
Hopefully, the league can get this issue figured out and can move toward at least a little bit more consistency in dealing with these matters in the future. If not, players, coaches and fans alike may be in for a bumpy ride in the future when it comes to what the league is going to do when a player violates the rules.