Falcons corner Dunta Robinson was fined $50,000 by the NFL yesterday for his hit on Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson. Both players suffered concussions on the play, and both are expected to sit out their respective team’s next games.
I don’t think anyone who saw Robinson’s hit would characterize it as malicious. Violent, to be certain. But it was a violent hit that appeared to be more a result of physics than any blatant attempt to injure. No matter. Robinson still got the hefty fine, with this explanation from NFL Vice President Ray Anderson:
"Technically, by the rules, even if you initiate contact below the neck, but you get up into a player's head and neck area for a defenseless receiver, technically under that rule, that was a violation," Anderson said on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike" show yesterday. "That's why it was called [a penalty]. And it will be subject to discipline."
The league expanded the definition of a "defenseless receiver" in March. If a receiver has caught the ball but hasn't had time to protect himself, he can't be hit in the head or neck area.
"Yes, it was a bang-bang play," Anderson said. "You can make the argument that it was different from the others [hits on Sunday]. But at the end of the day, it was still illegal under the current rules. And we have to be very vigorous about enforcing and protecting our players against hits like this."
Robinson is appealing the fine. I have two problems with this situation. First off, the league said it would get tough on hits like this by issuing suspensions. But they didn’t issue ANY suspensions coming out of this weekend. They just issued fines, like they always have. Yes, the fines are bigger. But are they big enough to get some players to stop? No.
Going the other way, the idea that Robinson was fined the same amount as Pats safety Brandon Merriweather, who really WAS trying to injure Todd Heap on his helmet-to-helmet hit, is insane. This is clearly a CYA move by the league. They fined Robinson the same amount as Merriweather only because Robinson’s hit LOOKED bad, even though it the intent was clearly different. They want to send a message to people who only casually glance at football that they don’t condone violence, which is stupid since the game is inherently so. Maybe that’s a good message to send to your Aunt Betty because she saw the highlight on her local news and got all chippy about it, but it’s a lousy one to send to players. They don’t have the guts to suspend anyone, yet they’ll happily blanket fine EVERYONE, regardless of intent. Robinson is right to be upset. You can’t win no matter what you do.