Ed Reed’s brief suspension proves one thing: The NFL isn’t explaining what it wantsBy Doug Farrar | Shutdown Corner – Tue, Nov 20, 2012 3:22 PM EST
Ed Reed isn't known as a headhunter. (AP)
"Ed Reed is a great, great football player. I think there's no way Ed would purposely go out and hurt somebody" -- Rex Ryan
The NFL's decision to suspend Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed for a game for repeated violations of its defenseless player rules, hitting him with the "repeat offender" tag, seems on its surface to be very much in line with a proposed and oft-publicized intent to make the game safer. With over 4,000 former players involved in a series of ever-growing lawsuits against the league for alleged past neglect in the monitoring of player safety, the league feels a need to send shots that are just as definitive as the ones it claims Reed laid on three defenseless players over the last three seasons.
"We cannot tolerate repeated violations of rules, especially rules related to player safety," NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said in the league's suspension announcement. "We will continue to take the strongest possible action to deter these types of violations and protect our players."
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Of course, Anderson's mandate was repealed when Ted Cottrell of the league's appeal board overturned the suspension on Tuesday, fining Reed $50,000 instead.
"I have determined that your actions were egregious and warrant significant discipline," Cottrell wrote in a letter to Reed. "However, I do not believe that your actions were so egregious as to subject you to a one-game suspension without pay. Player safety is the league's primary concern in the formation of playing rules and all players are expected to adhere to those rules or face disciplinary action. I hope in the future you will focus on ensuring that your play conforms to the rules."
The play that pushed the league over the edge was Reed's penalized tackle of Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders in the third quarter of Sunday night's Ravens victory. However, the suspension doesn't clarify the NFL's position on hits to defenseless players as much as it continues to illuminate the blurry line between what's realistic to legislate in a game where violent things happen in a big hurry all the time. Reed's other alleged offenses were a hit on New England Patriots receiver Deion Branch earlier this season, and a hit on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in 2010.
In the slow-motion review of the play, two things are clear. After Sanders finished his crossing route from right to left and catches the ball from quarterback Byron Leftwich, Reed closed in on the receiver and turned his head before contact to avoid a direct helmet-to-helmet hit. Sanders lowered his pad level before impact and turned his helmet to face Reed, putting him more in harm's way than he would have been.
"He's a good person, and he's got a good heart," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "He's got tremendous respect for the game, and we stand behind him in that respect as a team and as an organization."
Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who's run afoul of the NFL's defenseless player policy before, didn't see the logic.
"Tough on Ed getting suspended," Clark tweeted soon after the suspension was announced. "I can't say that I agree w/that. It was a penalty but I don't believe he was intentionally trying to harm E."
On Tuesday morning, Anderson told Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic on ESPN Radio that the burden to protect the defenseless offensive player is on the defender, no matter what.
"We want him to hit below the head and neck area," Anderson said, when asked just how Reed was supposed to make that play. "We'd like to see him use his shoulder. we'd like to see him wrap up in a more traditional technique. But we absolutely do not want to see head-to-head, or shoulder- or forearm-to-head area contact. No real attempt to wrap up, and going almost missile-like up high. We cannot have those hits in the game any longer."
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But as Golic pointed out, Sanders lowered his head and changed his pad level to prepare for impact as Reed closed in, which made the occurrence of illegal contact far more probable. This question keeps coming up, and the league has provided no realistic answer. How are defensive players supposed to adjust to quick pad level changes in that timeframe?
"Well, Ed Reed is a repeat offender, and the burden is on the defender to alter his target in situations like that, where a [receiver] is defenseless. Here's the bottom line for us -- hits to the head and neck area are potentially life-altering, as well as career-altering. We believe that, and we have enough to show us that. Illegal hits to the head and neck area are our biggest concern, and we are absolutely intent on getting those out of the game."
Well, Anderson didn't answer the question there, nor did he at any stage of the interview. Instead, he leaned on a set of clearly rehearsed talking points, referring to Reed as a "repeat offender" at least once more, and bringing up the judicial system and the concept of "aggravated offenses."
Anderson brought fire to the discussion, and it's clear that for whatever reason, the NFL is going to react (or perhaps overreact) to anything it deems out of line. But what are the coaches supposed to do? How do they coach these problematic hits out of the players, and is that even possible? Defensive-minded coaches around the league seem to agree that when their players come to them looking for coaching points, it's tough to know what to say at times.
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ESPN analyst Eric Mangini, who once coached defensive backs for Bill Belichick, echoed those concerns.
"What was going to be a legal hit becomes an illegal hit, and you have to change your reaction in a split second," Mangini said. "You can't have the blow-up hits. You can't have the hits where you send a message to wide receivers coming across the middle of the field. Everybody's tentative. Everybody's worried about getting fined. And as much as you're coaching it, the players know what's coming. Guys are trying to do it the right way, and the message has been sent, but it gets to the point that if you keep beating them over the head without correcting them and saying, 'This is how you should do it...'
"When a guy goes in [to a play] like that, with legal intent and the right pad level, what do you tell him? What's the coaching point? Go that much lower? You get into an area where you don't have a good answer for them. The game is safer, but you've got to give the players some sort of answer if you're going to penalize them for making a mistake."
The NFL is right about one thing -- this is a game of angles, and taking the wrong angle can lead to serious consequences. Right now, the NFL is primarily interested in pull quotes, "shock-and-awe," and the need to avoid the appearance of neglect in this matter. When it's time to do more than send out a few random pictures and videos to the players, we might be on a path to a safer game -- and further away from the propaganda that people create when they want to randomly insist that things are better.
Whether Ed Reed is suspended or not, fairly or not, the issues still remain.
This whole think is complete BS. Watch Harrison's hits he was vilified for where QB's are sprinting toward the LOS and change their own head level at the last second ala Colt McCoy and Harrison being suspended for the hits simply on the principle that he is a repeat offender. Now they will review the hit and hear the player out and pull the suspension if the player is a 'good guy' or didn't mean it? Harrison is being raped by OT's on his way to the QB'S while Reed is simply aiming too high. What out of those two actions is easier to control?
Seems fishy to me that the Ravens secondary is already decimated and the loss of Reed could be brutal heading into a showdown with the Chargers who can throw it around. Sorry, but it does. A Ravens loss and Steelers win would put us right back where we could tie the Ravens record wise with a win at Baltimore. Having Reed against the Chargers aids the Ravens in that matchup for sure.
[QUOTE=Mister Pittsburgh;534228]This whole think is complete BS. Watch Harrison's hits he was vilified for where QB's are sprinting toward the LOS and change their own head level at the last second ala Colt McCoy and Harrison being suspended for the hits simply on the principle that he is a repeat offender. [/QUOTE]
I get your point that it is a third offense but there is NO COMPARISON in those hits. Here is the refresh:
Harrison H2H hit was EASILY avoidable, dropping his helmet, straight on. If he just wraps the guy with his arm and leads with the shoulder no penalty. Bear in mind had knocked two guys out FROM THE SAME BROWNS TEAM in one game. None of Reeds hits were as bad from the standpoint of the rules. One was mostly shoulder only glancing helmet. All three players bounce right up. Harrison was taking guys out, writhing in pain, concussions. Reeds guys bounce up like nothing even happened. Harrison made zero effort to avoid H2H hit and could have EASILY dropped Colt with a perfectly legal tackle.
[QUOTE=Captain Lemming;534286]I get your point that it is a third offense but there is NO COMPARISON in those hits. Here is the refresh:
Harrison H2H hit was EASILY avoidable, dropping his helmet, straight on. If he just wraps the guy with his arm and leads with the shoulder no penalty. Bear in mind had knocked two guys out FROM THE SAME BROWNS TEAM in one game. None of Reeds hits were as bad from the standpoint of the rules. One was mostly shoulder only glancing helmet. All three players bounce right up. Harrison was taking guys out, writhing in pain, concussions. Reeds guys bounce up like nothing even happened. Harrison made zero effort to avoid H2H hit and could have EASILY dropped Colt with a perfectly legal tackle.[/QUOTE]
According to what we have learned through this process, we can view Reed's hit on sanders as far worse than Harrison's hit on McCoy. Here is what we do know.....
You cannot hit a defenseless receiver in the head, and Sanders was definitely a defenseless receiver. As Harrison learned after the Massaquoi hit, movement at the last moment by the receiver is not a mitigating circumstance, the defender is responsible for where he hits the receiver.
As we learned in the same game, a QB who breaks the pocket and runs is not entitled to the same protection as any other QB. Thus, the hit on Cribbs (who was a wildcat QB on that play) was not penalized. We also know, from every game we watch, that H2H is perfectly legal on a RB - and a QB who begins to run is considered a RB.
So, was Harrison's hit wrong? Absolutely, but within the confines of the rules (as they continue to evolve) it was a borderline situation. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the hit on Sanders was illegal, and subject to punishment every time.
Here is one other thing that I never hear mentioned when it comes to hits, but I think should be considered important, and that is point of contact. Think bout many of the hits that Ryan Clark has been penalized for. On many of those hits, he hits with his shoulder into the other players shoulder, but as they crash together, the two heads will then hit. That is penalized as any other PF hit to the receiver. Now watch the Reed hit again on Sanders. The point of contact is H2H. IMO that is far worse than your typical Clark hit and should be considered when it comes time to fine players and label them as repeat offenders. Of course this would be nearly impossible to legislate as a ref watching at full speed, but the label that comes with these hits should not be the same as true H2H hits.
[QUOTE]You cannot hit a defenseless receiver in the head, and Sanders was definitely a defenseless receiver. As Harrison learned after the Massaquoi hit, movement at the last moment by the receiver is not a mitigating circumstance, the defender is responsible for where he hits the receiver.[/QUOTE]
And both players were fined for the hits, your point? Only difference is that Harrison hits with a ferocity that Reed does not. Harrisons hits knock people out causing concussions, the find of injury the league is trying to reduce, thus that hit was worse. FAR worse.
[QUOTE]As we learned in the same game, a QB who breaks the pocket and runs is not entitled to the same protection as any other QB. Thus, the hit on Cribbs (who was a wildcat QB on that play) was not penalized. We also know, from every game we watch, that H2H is perfectly legal on a RB - and a QB who begins to run is considered a RB.[/QUOTE]
Oh I never thought of it that way. I guess the part where the BALL WAS THREE QUARTERS OF THE WAY TO THE RECEIVER BEFORE THE HIT made me think that at the time of impact McCoy was indeed a QB.
You mean that you can lay a helmet with concussion causing force into the head of a QB [SIZE=4]AFTER he has thrown a pass, [/SIZE]because he has run before the pass was thrown? THAT my friend is really reaching.
[QUOTE]So, was Harrison's hit wrong? Absolutely, but within the confines of the rules (as they continue to evolve) it was a borderline situation. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the hit on Sanders was illegal, and subject to punishment every time.[/QUOTE]
Both hits were fined, Harrison's hit was a direct concussion causing hit to the head of a QB who did not even have the ball. Has JH not lowered his head to give a direct shot to the QBs cranium, he would have seen that the ball was gone.
To imply that Reeds hit is worse is ridiculous. Raven fans have seen more big hits by JH "in their stadium" than they will see watching Ed Reed at every home game combined.
[SIZE=4]THE concussion causing hit by JH and it's effect are EXACTLY WHY the rule was made. [/SIZE]
If every player hit like Ed Reed there would be no problem. He aint that big a hitter.
He is like the guy who has three crimes that are technically felonies, and gets hit with the three strikes law.
[SIZE=4]Heck, the biggest hits Reed has been a part of were ones he received at the hands of Hines Ward[/SIZE]. :)
Ed Reed knows how hard James Harrison hits. I think James embarrassed him on the one punt return a few years back.
I'm sorry but this whole thing about Reed being "a good guy" or "not that kind of player" is BS & has nothing to do with his actions & that in each case he INTENDED to do what he did & that is what the league is trying to prohibit - intentional hits to the head. On both the Sanders & Branch hits he has time to decide to make a legitimate tackle but DECIDES to go high & that's what this should be based on. Sanders DOES NOT dramatically drop his head into Reed's hitting plane & to put the onus for either the Sanders or Branch's hit - which is indefensible - on the WRs is just searching for a rationalization to protect Reed. What is clear is that Reed, who is quickly becoming a shadow of his former self with shoulder & neck injuries, no longer goes for the secure tackle but instead tries to over compensate by attempting to blow WRs up & the best way to do that is go high.
All that said, I never agreed with the loss of a game check but a substantial fine & a suspension were certainly warranted & it could be argued that the suspension would've been more effective in curtailing the kind of hits the NFL wants to see weeded out.
Instead of fining or suspending a player, how about the guy who gives another guy a concussion is responsible for his future medical bills. If a bunch of guys concuss the same guy, then they split the future medical bills.
How 'bout the league drops its arbitrary, capricious manner of penalizing players and instead invests some money into better helmets?
[QUOTE=BradshawsHairdresser;534411]How 'bout the league drops its arbitrary, capricious manner of penalizing players and instead invests some money into better helmets?[/QUOTE]
Exactly. The NFL says that it's #1 concern is the health and safety of the players, but they don't require the players to wear the newer helmets developed that protect the head better. If there is a helmet (and there is) that lessens the impact to the head during contact, it should be mandatory that those are the helmets used.