NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell notified teams today that more significant discipline, including suspensions, will be imposed on players that strike an opponent in the head or neck area in violation of the rules.
A memo to the clubs from Commissioner Goodell was accompanied by a message and video to NFL players and coaches. The head coach of each club has been instructed to show the video and read the message to his players and coaching staff as soon as possible. The video includes examples of illegal hits and legal hits under NFL rules.
"One of our most important priorities is protecting our players from needless injury," Commissioner Goodell said. "In recent years, we have emphasized minimizing contact to the head and neck, especially where a defenseless player is involved. It is clear to me that further action is required to emphasize the importance of teaching safe and controlled techniques, and of playing within the rules. It is incumbent on all of us to support the rules we have in place to protect players."
The enhanced discipline will be imposed even in cases of a first offense, including the possibility of suspension for first-time offenders, the clubs were told.
Following is the message to be read to all coaches and players:
TO NFL PLAYERS AND COACHES:
One of our highest priorities is player safety. We all know that football is a tough game that includes hard contact. But that carries with it an obligation to do all that we can to protect all players from unnecessary injury caused by dangerous techniques from those who play outside the rules.
The video shown today shows what kind of hits are against the rules, but also makes clear that you can play a hard, physical game within the rules.
Violations of the playing rules that unreasonably put the safety of another player in jeopardy have no place in the game, and that is especially true in the case of hits to the head and neck. Accordingly, from this point forward, you should be clear on the following points:
1. Players are expected to play within the rules. Those who do not will face increased discipline, including suspensions, starting with the first offense.
2. Coaches are expected to teach playing within the rules. Failure to do so will subject both the coach and the employing club to discipline.
3. Game officials have been directed to emphasize protecting players from illegal and dangerous hits, and particularly from hits to the head and neck. In appropriate cases, they have the authority to eject players from a game.