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NFL Crackdown: Suspensions Coming for Illegal Hits

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Joe Reedy is reporting that the NFL plans on suspending players for violent hits next season instead of simply fining them as they did last year. NFL Vice President Ray Anderson spoke at a teleconference previewing the league's new proposed rule changes, including kickoff rules and violent hits.  Reedy quotes Anderson saying,

Now that the notice has been given, I think players, coaches and clubs are very aware of what the emphasis is; that going forward we won’t have that hesitation to suspend.  We will exercise it in 2011 without the hesitation very frankly that we had in 2010, because this is not an area we can relent on.

The competition committee is looking to expand the definition of defenseless players, and has eight new categories to help promote player safety on the field. These changes include expanding protection for receivers and eliminating launching of any type. Similar rules have been on the books in the NFL before last year, but with the increased fear and awareness about brain injuries, the NFL has decided to up the ante on violent hits.

Despite the outcry from players like Pittsburgh's James Harrison, who racked up fines for four hits totaling $125,000 last year, the league is insisting on the need to protect the health of the players. Harrison, and other notable NFL players such as Brian Urlacher, (and we all know how tough Brian Urlacher is) have criticized the new enforcement of the rules.  Urlacher's comments were well publicized back in October after saying,

It's freaking football. There are going to be big hits. I don't understand how they can do this after one weekend of hitting. And I can't understand how they can suspend us for it. I think it's a bunch of bull (crap).

Changes to the kickoff rules would include moving the kickoff position from the 30 yard line up to the 35 yard line, having touchbacks come out to 25 yard line instead of the 20, and eliminating wedges altogether.

Brian Urlacher Old Spice Swagger Commercial (via hambone224)