Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed in a Thursday morning interview on Boston’s WEEI-Radio the NFL’s plans for stricter enforcement of the existing rules prohibiting hits to the head of defenseless players, as defined by the rules.
Following is a transcript of the Commissioner’s comments:
(Regarding the NFL’s actions taken after the illegal hits from last weekend)
I don’t think it’s a perfect storm. I think it’s an unfortunate weekend, but I think the work the league has been doing over the last couple of years to bring greater awareness of these types of injuries and these types of hits have made sure everyone is conscious of playing the game within the rules and taking out certain techniques. That’s something we continue to emphasize, these requirements of the rules. We’re going to have to increase the discipline with possible suspensions.
(Regarding the NFL response to the hits)
There is no change of the rules. These rules are changed in the offseason after months of study with competition committee members that include coaches and front office executives and the players and medical personnel. We’ve identified certain techniques that we want to take out of the game. What we’re looking to take out are those hits to the head. We’ve extended protection to defenseless receivers in the offseason. And these were clear violations of those rules, that’s why they were disciplined. What we’re saying to the players very clearly — and information was sent yesterday, including to the media – [is that if] there is a violation of rules we will increase the discipline going forward.
(Will there be ejections going forward?)
I doubt it. It’s likely you’ll see the yellow flag first because we told our officials to air on the side of safety. If they think it’s a violation than they should throw the flag. If they don’t see it, or they miss it, than it won’t matter if there is no flag, we’ll continue the evaluation from a discipline standpoint once the tape gets back to the office on Monday.
(Could textbook, but violent, hits result in discipline under the league’s guidelines?)
It’s not a violation of the rules so why would there be discipline?
(Comparing the hits that drew disciplinary action from last weekend)
They were each violations of the rule. You could certainly distinguish any one of the three, but they are exactly the kind of techniques we have worked on eliminating from the game. Each of them are violations of the rules, they were penalized and disciplined beyond that.
(On the guidelines that are in place)
The defenseless receiver has protections while catching the ball, even while he’s caught the ball. This past offseason we extended it a little bit beyond once they gain possession to give him the chance to become essentially a runner, someone who can defend by moving. As you can see by that play he had no opportunity to defend himself. But we also understand what defenders are trying to do, which is separate the ball. But there are techniques that can be used to separate the ball without the helmet going to the head or neck area.