Ted Cottrell used to coach defense in the NFL.
The former defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings and San Diego Chargers used to help players find the most effective way possible to get other players to the ground, preferably without the ball. He encouraged hard hits, while constantly aware that hitting too hard or any contact involving helmets could result in a penalty.
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It's because of that background that Cottrell, now an NFL appeals officer for fine challenges, doesn't have a whole lot of sympathy for players or coaches who complain about the league's rules changes designed to minimize dangerous blows.
Some Pittsburgh Steelers players have been particularly vocal about the rules because the legislation clearly was made with the Steelers' defense in mind -- especially the part that calls for teams to be punished for repeat offenses by their players (such as linebacker James Harrison, who has tweeted his objections).
"This is nothing new," Cottrell told me during a recent interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "There was some information -- DVDs, posters, rule books -- about points of emphasis sent out for the 2008 training camp (when Cottrell coached with the Chargers). And they were exactly the same as they are now. The players had to sign for the DVDs, and they had to sign for the books, which means it was in their property. The posters were in the locker room, the training room.
"But some guys didn't change their style. In 2009, they didn't change their style. In 2010, (the league said), 'OK, since you guys are not changing your style, we're just going to increase the fines and see if that gets your attention.' All of a sudden, when the fines got increased, now you heard players say, 'OK, the league is picking on us.' No, they're not."
As Cottrell stressed, the intention isn't to take away from players' aggressiveness and therefore reduce their productivity.
"You can still hit them hard because there are players in the league that are hard hitters and have never been fined," he said. "It's just how you go about it."