Veteran safety Milloy says some helmet hits unavoidable

RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy woke up at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning and couldn't go back to sleep, knowing that as an 15-year veteran he would be asked about the NFL's increased punishment for helmet-to-helmet hits.

"Our league, every year they come in with new rules, and it always seems like it's 15 rules for the offense and one rule that might get put in for the defense, as far as safety issues or whatever," Milloy said. "When I came into the league, you really didn't have to worry about how you hit, and I'm proud I came in in that era, because it's definitely getting harder and harder for myself and some of these young guys on defense."

The NFL on Tuesday fined three players -- Pittsburgh's James Harrison, Atlanta's Dunta Robinson and New England's Brandon Meriweather -- for illegal hits last weekend, although none of those plays drew penalties on the field. The league warned that, starting this weekend, violent conduct will be cause for suspension.

Milloy said that although he doesn't play with the intention of ever hurting another player, helmet-to-helmet hits are often unavoidable.

"I understand what they're trying to do. You never want to see anyone getting carted off," Milloy said. "I don't think anybody has those intentions, at least I don't play that way. But our game is such an instinctual game that sometimes you can't control it."

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said he intended to spend a big chunk of the Seahawks' regular Thursday morning meetings addressing the new league emphasis. He said it will be a constant point of emphasis, but he also hopes the league will take a step back and look at the situation from the players' perspective.

"They're trying to play the game the best they can. There are things that happen during the game that are just part of the game and we will continue to emphasize the safety part of it, but there are going to be some instances," Carroll said. "Hopefully, they'll be understanding, they'll understand the viewpoint of the player, as well. I know they're trying to figure it out."

Milloy's contention is that the natural reaction of offensive players often creates the helmet contact. He cited receivers who after making catches brace for impact by lowering their head and running backs who lower their shoulder, thus lowering the impact area of a potential tackler.

"That changes our target, and it's natural, and nothing is being said about that. It's just becoming very, very difficult," he said.

During a lighter moment, Milloy joked that if he had a son playing youth football, he would implore him to switch to offense. But he acknowledged the new emphasis will definitely be on his mind come Sunday, when the Seahawks play host to Arizona.

"It's a very fine line the NFL is tight-roping, but as a player I have a job to do and my job is to try and get the guy down and to minimize points. It use to be by all means necessary," Milloy said. "Going into the game, am I thinking about it? I'd be lying if I say I wasn't. How do I tackle this guy? Can I have the 'Wooo!' hits like Ronnie Lott use to talk about? They're really taking that out of the game, and it's really a shame."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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