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Video will show owners that players have adjusted to hits edict

NEW YORK -- When NFL owners meet in Dallas next week, they will see a video of clean hits in games played since the league's crackdown on flagrant fouls.

NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the video "clearly shows players making adjustments" and that some former rule-breakers when it came to hitting defenseless players "have gotten the message."

"Frankly, some players who previously have been fined or disciplined have made the adjustments we are looking for to play within the rules," Anderson said. "It is hard to declare any trends this soon; it's premature to do that. But certainly what we are seeing, not just us in this office, but officials and coaches have reported they see players making appropriate adjustments. And particularly where in prior instances there may have been a little more hitting, perhaps some gratuitous shots being meted out, players now refrain.

"We are encouraged players are making the adjustment."

The league announced seven weeks ago that it would fine players heavily and perhaps suspend them for illegal hits after a rash of such tackles Oct. 17. While the amount of fines has increased -- several players have been docked $40,000 or more -- no one has been suspended.

That doesn't mean suspensions won't come for flagrant fouls, Anderson warned.

"There should be no confusion if a suspension is necessary because money is not deterring (illegal) actions," Anderson said. "That is an option that is available for continued violations.

"Everyone doesn't get a free pass, no matter how egregious a hit might be the first time. We don't want anyone thinking that this is my one time to make such a hit, and I can stay on the field. They should not be operating under that false assumption."

The tape compiled by Anderson and his staff eventually will be distributed throughout the league, including to the players. At the end of the season and during the offseason, the NFL routinely sends out videos demonstrating plays that are within the rules.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expected adaptation to the crackdown on illegal hits wouldn't be immediate.

"Any time you have changes, there's a period of adapting to those changes, and it's happened over the last several decades of football," he said Wednesday. "Any time we've made rule changes or had emphasis on certain areas, there's a period of adjustment from a player standpoint, a coaching standpoint, officiating standpoint. And that's something that we always go through.

"But I think we're getting to the point where people understand what we're looking for, and we'll hopefully get to a point where it's being enforced on a consistent basis and the players understand what we're looking for."

Two moments in last Sunday's Steelers-Ravens game drew attention because they weren't penalized: Baltimore defensive tackle Haloti Ngata breaking quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's nose, and the hit Jameel McClain delivered on Heath Miller that gave the Pittsburgh tight end a concussion. McClain was fined $40,000 on Monday, and Ngata was docked $15,000.

There were loud cries of favoritism during and after Pittsburgh's victory -- the Steelers have been vocal about feeling picked on by the league, a notion that Anderson vehemently dismissed.

"We don't put any credence into that and would dispute that unequivocally," he said. "I have been hearing that since the first time I understood what competitive football was, and any of us who follows football has been hearing that for decades.

"The integrity of the game is first and foremost. Under this commissioner and leadership of this office, that is not something we would tolerate or condone. If we ever believed any of that was going on, we would come down with a vengeance."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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