League-wide memo reveals stricter punishment for risky hits

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a league-wide memo Wednesday, stressing increased discipline, including suspensions, for players who strike an opponent in the head or neck area.

Goodell's memo was accompanied by a message and video to all players and coaches. Each team's head coach 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," Goodell said in the memo. "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, teams were told.

Emphasized in the letter was that coaches are responsible for teaching their players how to play withing the rules, without sacrificing the safety of other players.

In an effort to enforce the new rules, game officials have been given the authority to eject players in appropriate cases, according to Goodell.

The announcement came one day after the NFL fined three players a total for $175,000 for dangerous hits. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison received a $75,000, and New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson each must pay $50,000.

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