That’s because he’s hunted too many heads, or something. In truth, this is a sad tale of the confusing, odd system of NFL punishment. But yeah, whatever. All hail Goodell.

Ed Reed has been suspended for one game due to his repeated violations of the rules “prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players“. Mmmkay, fair enough, but when were these repeated violations?

The final blow came last night when Reed hit Emmanuel Sanders, while another hit came earlier this year when he rocked Deion Branch. But the third hit came in 2010 when he hit Drew Brees. Cumulative punishments involving actions that took place two seasons ago is backwards. If as a league it’s determined that a hit has crossed a boundary of good discipline, then the punishment should take place in its entirety at the time of the incident. Linking hits that are two years apart is senseless, and it makes an attempt to unnecessarily brand a player as being dirty and dangerous.

The exception to that should be particularly glaring repeat offenses, like those from Ndamukong Suh that resulted in his two-game suspension last year. I suppose the league has determined that Reed’s hits meet that vague definition of glaring, but when exactly did he, say, stomp on a guy, or body slam a quarterback? That’s my definition of glaring, not a hit by a safety in a fast-paced game when he has to make an even faster decision while a large body comes towards him during a catch deep downfield, and the difference between dirty and clean is often a matter of inches. That’s when the majority of Reed’s crushing hits happen, while James Harrison — who was also suspended for one game last year — often had more time to react and change his angle as he’s attacking a runner in the open field.

This is the massive grey area the league is dealing with as it pertains to player safety in an era when the concern over concussions has grown significantly. The definitions for defenseless and dirty on either side of a questionable hit are rarely black and white, and too often unique hits in unique situations are jammed into the framework of what the league views as its all-encompassing language.

Reed has said he’ll appeal the suspension. If it’s upheld, the fantasy impact next week as the Ravens travel to San Diego is rather simple: no Reed means fun times for Philip Rivers, Malcom Floyd, and the quickly-emerging Danario Alexander. They’ll be opposing a Ravens defense playing without Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb and Reed, meaning it’s a unit that’s imposing only in whatever name value it has left.

Alexander could become an especially intriguing option against the Ravens’ severely-depleted secondary that’s only a week removed from allowing Carson Palmer to pass for 368 yards on 8.2 yards per attempt. Last year with a healthy core, the Ravens allowed only 196.3 passing yards per game, a number that’s now increased significantly to 250.1.

Comments (3)

  1. If you wanted to complain about suspensions because of violations over multiple seasons, you should have complained last year when James Harrison got suspended the first time he got fined in 2011.

    But you say Harrison “has more time to react” than Reed? What are you talking about? You can’t generalize the plays Harrison was fined for, because they are all different. This whole fining mess started with Harrison’s helmet-to-helmet on a Brown receiver, but he never got fined for hitting a defenseless receiver again.

    On the other hand, Ed Reed went a helmet-to-helmet on a defenseless receiver twice in the same season.

    • True, Harrison’s hit on Mohamed Massaquoi was similar in its reaction time or lack thereof, but he left his feet and launched himself at the receiver, which is the primary action the rule attempts to deter. Also, his suspension finally came following the Colt McCoy hit, which was on a scrambling quarterback when Harrison had plenty of time to target another area.

      But, I’ll freely admit to being a little conflicted whenever there’s a suspension, and it comes on a play like Reed’s hit on Sanders Sunday night. On one hand, I’m not a blood-thirsty neanderthal, and I have no desire to see players unable to function in retirement. That’s why any step to reduce head trauma is a step in the right direction.

      However, during these open-field hits that in real time take place seconds after a catch, it just isn’t that simple to ask a defensive back to lower his point of contact drastically.

  2. But Harrison’s fines shows the hyprocrisy of the rules – Harrison got the biggest fine the week they started handing out fines, even though Meriweather’s hit that week was the textbook definition of what the league is trying to eliminate. But Harrison’s huge fine was probably due to the fact of the two concussions – one legal, and one not. And Harrison’s hit would have been legal on a runner, which he thought McCoy was.

    I also feel the conflict about the fines/suspensions, because I’d like to see a game that didn’t destroy people’s brains. But the NFL’s scapegoating and villianizing doesn’t help that.

    And now Reed’s third offense, second helmet to helmet in one year, was reduced to the first fine against Harrison.

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