After an eventful week 6 in the NFL that included a number of serious helmet-to-helmet hits, week 7 was much quieter after the NFL’s crackdown on these serious plays. Players who might otherwise have gone in for a harder hit against their opponents settled for less controversial plays, aiming to avoid the suspension that NFL officials have pledged will be a consequence of any helmet-to-helmet hits.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ James Harrison was fined $75,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns receiver Mohammed Massaquoi that Harrison maintains was unavoidable. Atlanta Falcons’ Dunta Robinson and Philadelphia Eagles’ DeSean Jackson were both out this week as a result of Robinson’s hit on Jackson.
Harrison, knowing that he would likely be suspended following any additional helmet hits, pulled up on a play against Miami Dolphins’ Robbie Brown. This also happened in the Buffalo Bills – Baltimore Ravens game and the Tennessee Titans – Philadelphia Eagles game.
These plays seem to support last week’s controversial belief: that NFL players are so skilled that they possess such high levels of body control they can adjust to any regulation restrictions and still continue to be effective defenders. Critics of the new helmet-to-helmet regulations believe that expecting players to be able to prevent these types of hits in the heat of the play is unreasonable. Many players agree.
“I’m a pro athlete, true, I can adjust,” said Harrison. “But I can’t adjust to something at the last minute. That’s unreal.”
While there were no serious calls made by officials on Sunday, there was much concern expressed by coaches, players, and owners going into the week about the amount of pressure that might be put on officials to throw a flag at even the slightest indication of an impermissible hit in a split-second decision.
After watching the games, NFL’s former chief of officiating Mike Pereira said he saw no difference in the way the games were called.
“This whole uproar has been over three plays,” said Pereira. “There has certainly not been a Brandon Meriweather-type hit. It’s probably going to settle down. It wasn’t an epidemic, but the message was sent: don’t let it start being that.”