Dunta Robinson sustained a concussion on his knockout tackle of DeSean Jackson in the second quarter of the Atlanta Falcons’ 31-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. His headache got a little bit worse on Tuesday.
The NFL league fined the Atlanta cornerback $50,000 for the hit, which it deemed to be a “flagrant violation of player safety rules.” Both concussed players are expected to miss playing time due to the collision.
NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson informed Robinson of the penalty mid-day Tuesday. He claimed that Robinson violated NFL Official Playing Rule 12, section 2, article 8(g) by making “contact by a defender’s helmet, forearm, or shoulder … to the head or neck area of a defenseless receiver who is catching or attempting to catch a pass.”
Give me a break. Has the No Fun League even bothered to look at the videotape?
Yes, the Robinson play was violent. Yes, the Robinson play was hard. Yes, the Robinson play resulted in injuries to both Robinson and Jackson.
But it wasn’t illegal.
“My biggest thing after playing 14 years in the NFL and making 2000 tackles, I think the fine is a little bit much,” legendary Falcons defender Jessie “the Hammer” Tuggle told Fox 5 News on Tuesday. “You want to take some danger out of the game, but it’s still football.”
Tuggle’s right, if you don’t believe him, take a look at what actually happened on the videotape. (For copyright reasons, I can only link to the NFL’s official video, not embed it on this page – another NFL-only thing brought to you by the guys who have their full TV package only on satellite TV.)
A guy who was basically my size – 5-foot-10, 175 pounds – went into the middle of an Atlanta zone defense and got whacked after he caught the football by a very speedy cornerback – who is also 5-foot-10, but has a 10 pound weight advantage on Jackson. The alleged offender was running at full speed to the spot where a pass was thrown and propelled his shoulder into the top of the torso of Jackson – a textbook technique that has been hammered into Robinson’s football DNA over and over and over again since he first picked up the pigskin.
The lightning-fast Robinson ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his combine. Jackson’s time was 4.35. It doesn’t take Sir Isaac Newton to tell you what happens when two players running at top speed in opposite directions run into each other. A violent collision occurs.
This kind of thing happens time and time again in the NFL and the receiver that goes up the middle against a soft zone defense usually takes the brunt of the hit from the defense. But in a sport where the guy who holds onto the ball at the end of the play almost always ends up tackled on the bottom of a pile, these warriors do not shy away from catching the football and the ensuing contact. They put their bodies on the line to win the game for their teams and their fans.
The players know that collisions are part of the dangers of playing in the National Football League. The commentators know it. The fans know it. The league profits from promoting these violent collisions that make “Plays of the Week” on ESPN and their own network. Now this same league that’s probably shown the Robinson hit 100 times by now wants to change the rule after the game was played.
It’s kind of like a police officer giving you a ticket texting while driving a week before the legislature passed a law prohibiting it and the legislature goes back and makes the conduct illegal retroactive to the date that you got pulled over. In legal terms, that fine would be thrown out of court as an ex-post facto piece of legislation.
What wouldn’t work in a court of law, shouldn’t work with the Commissioner’s office, either.
“I think the Commissioner is doing the right thing, protecting the players,” Tuggle said of the spirit of the NFL’s rule. “But you can’t make it a girl’s game where you can’t knock the guy out.”
The Hammer’s absolutely right here. This isn’t the Lingerie Football League. This isn’t a friendly neighborhood game of flag or touch football. This isn’t tennis. This isn’t golf. This isn’t Connect Four or Scrabble. It’s NFL football – a sport where the greatest of pro football players match up against the greatest in their sport on the other side of the field. And like in most sports at the highest level, the game is played very fast, the collisions are more violent and injuries happen.
It’s just part of the game.
Look, head injuries are a serious matter in the NFL and if the league wants to dilute its brand by taking away the bone-crushing hits that it has no problem promoting on its website, it is well within its power to do so.
However, to fine a guy for what was otherwise a clean and accepted football play until the alleged infraction occurred sends a bad precedent throughout the league.
Robinson is not taking this one lying down.
“I am disappointed by the NFL’s ruling, I recognize the goal is to protect all players — from the Pee Wee level on up — however, this was a bang-bang hit situation where I did not lead with my helmet, and therefore I will appeal,” Robinson said in a statement. ”Although it was a violent hit, my hit did not violate the NFL’s rules, and I was playing the game the way I always have. I am not a dirty player and have never been characterized as one.”
Good luck, Dunta. I hope upon further review, the penalty is reversed. It’s only fair.