The moment Dunta Robinson launched his helmet bars into Jeremy Maclin’s cranium last night it was assumed that his pocket would be much lighter today. That assumption has now been confirmed after the league issued a press release stating that Robinson has been fined $40,000.
We’re going to proceed under another logical assumption too. Given his status as a repeat offender, Robinson’s appeal will be denied if he chooses to pursue one, and this fine doesn’t stand a chance of being reduced, or at least not nearly as significantly as the reduction he received last year. Robinson was initially fined $50,000 for a nearly identical hit on DeSean Jackson last fall, and after an appeal the fine was reduced to $25,000. If the league permits a reduction of any significance this time around Roger Goodell will look like a pretty wimpy, weak little man.
Here’s the league’s rationale for the punishment, which landed under a violation of the defenseless player rule:
On the play, Robinson lowered his head and made forcible contact to the head and neck area of Philadelphia wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Although Maclin completed the catch, he was still a defenseless player under the rule because he did not have time to protect himself and had not clearly become a runner.
Robinson signed a six-year contract worth $57 million last year, $25.5 million of which is guaranteed. But similar to James Harrison–the NFL’s other rogue, rumbling defensive fool in Pittsburgh–Robinson’s fines are now beginning to accumulate. He’s up to $65,000 over the past two seasons, which is roughly half the value of his car.
If Goodell wanted to be a real bully he’d finally suspend someone, which is still the only sure-fire way to deliver a swift message. Even though they surely don’t enjoy paying these fines despite their gluttonous income, this punishment is still just a dollar figure to most players. A suspension strips a player of an opportunity to help their team win a football game, which also might lead to a poor image in the locker room. Punishments that take away winning and respect will always be much more effective than those which are based in simple monetary terms.
It’s easy to tee off on the likes of Robinson and Harrison. They deserve every word for their inability to adapt their style of play to suit a physical environment that’s changed drastically with the NFL’s increased awareness of head trauma over the past several seasons.
But while we hurl those barbs in Robinson’s direction for two vicious and avoidable hits in back-to-back seasons, remember that we’re going to see more of this before it gets better. Jason Whitlock was critical of Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth in his Fox Sports column today, saying that while Robinson clearly deserves punishment, the reaction of the two announcers during Sunday night’s game was overly dramatic.
It’s damn hard to unlearn years of “blow up” football in just a year. The hit Robinson laid on Maclin is just the kind of hit that used to put defensive backs in the Hall of Fame. It’s the kind of hit that used to be celebrated on “SportsCenter” and every other highlight show before “SportsCenter.”
The same thinking can be applied to anyone sitting comfortably in their couch groove at home, or angrily at their keyboard. It’s going to take time for both fans and players to fully adjust to a new league that discourages flattening an opposing player at every conceivable opportunity.
Or maybe it’s more likely that fans will never get used to these new rules, simply out of rebellion. After all, Division II football just won’t be the same.