A particularly vicious weekend of NFL action resulted in an unusually strong and abrupt response by League officials. $175,000 of fines were levied against three individuals coming out of this weekend’s games. The League has also announced that it will immediately begin to suspend players for flagrant hits. Ray Anderson, NFL football operations executive was first to get on this weekends hits. He stated that those who have a reputation for delivering the most violent and egregious hits will be dealt with most severely. Anderson most importantly said, “we are trying to get our players to not initiate contact on defenseless players including defenseless receivers to the head or neck area with the forearm the shoulder or the helmet. We’re trying to get that out of the game.”

    Head related injuries reported to the NFL through week six:

What do these numbers tell us? Have head injuries nearly doubled from last season? After last weekend’s deluge of guys violently going down, it might seem that way. What is far more likely is that the message of attention to head injuries has been received. While we have seen many brutal plays made against several notable players, the increase in reported head injuries is likely nothing more than players, coaching staffs, and medical personnel understanding the significance of this new era we find ourselves in. The numbers point to a system that is working.

Despite things, from my perspective, improving, there are players who still don’t get it. Such is the case of the Patriots defensive back, Brandon Meriweather, launching himself like a human torpedo at defenseless tight end, Todd Heap‘s head. It was stated that that play invigorated the defense and contributed to New England’s dramatic come from behind victory. Meriweather finds himself today $50,000 lighter in the wallet as the League came down hard on him and two others. The League did not, however, follow through with Monday’s threats to suspend players retroactively.

The fines levied, while nearly 10 times what is normal for such offenses, will be all the punishment for now. Suspensions are promised to be the new status quo going forward, beginning this weekend. Meriweather, still defiant on Monday declared during his weekly appearance on a Boston sports radio station; “I’m going to aggressive, point blank. I won’t change my game, period.” Given that this fine is one tenth of his annual salary, perhaps he will now reconsider his stance. Given that it is common to view plays that “jack-up” another guy as invigorating an entire team, it will be interesting to see how ejection of that offending player might now affects his team.

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker, James Harrison, a repeat offender, received the weekend’s largest fine, $75,000. He was not only unapologetic about his flagrant on-field acts of violence this past Sunday, but defended his actions stating, “it is my job to hurt people.” It will be interesting if he learns his lesson or is in line for a subsequent suspension. Harrison’s head coach, Mike Tomlin stated, “We have an obligation to provide as safe a game as we can… I’m a proponent of doing whatever rule adjustments we do to make the game safe.” I am pretty sure the league will win this battle of player safety and side with the more sensible Coach Tomlin.

Another Harrison, Rodney Harrison, passionately spoke about the present state of the League on NBC’s Football Night in America broadcast. He is very supportive of dramatically stricter enforcement of the rules and even strengthening them. Harrison, as a player was fined over $200,000 and was eventually suspended for helmet-to-helmet activity. He insists that the best way to get player’s attention about this is to take them away from their team and the thing they love most.

Head injuries will NEVER be eliminated from the game. The game of football, by its very nature, is a violent game. Men condition and train to do as Baltimore Raven’s Ray Lewis says, “hit someone real, real hard.” The ideal should be elimination of all unnecessary injuries. The men who play professional football would have it no other way. They play the game because they love it and part of the love of the game is the gladiatorial nature of it. Inherent risk is part of the glory associated with being in the NFL. And long may it live!