Speaking to the media before the Monday Night game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell opened up about what is taking place regarding discipline for the illegal hits to Cam Newton’s head. Per the Washington Post:
“That’s what the football staff is going through now, to find out what plays — clearly I know we missed at least one (illegal hit) in there. But you’re also concerned about the fact they even happen, even if you don’t miss them from an officiating standpoint. What is it we can do to try to ensure that those hits don’t occur?”
“Jon Runyan is in charge of that aspect of it. So he’s reviewing that and I assume he’ll come out with a decision in the next day or so.”
Jon Runyan is the NFL’s chief disciplinary officer, and he has the ability to fine or suspend players for both penalized and un-penalized hits.
Roger Goodell particularly cited the illegal hit delivered by Brandon Marshall, calling it “a technique the NFL is trying to get out of the game.” But also said there may be others that the league will seek to punish, such as Von Miller and Darian Stewart.
“The one call that I’m aware of that they (the officials) missed when he (Newton) was moving back to the offensive line, back to the line of scrimmage, and he pulled back up and went to [being] a passer. He gets that passer protection when he’s in the passing mode. But the defender used a technique that we’ve been trying to get out of the game, frankly. He left his feet and went to the head. It’s ultimately all about the technique that’s used, that’s coached. And we want to make sure it’s not.”
There has been no shortage of coverage regarding this particular hit, but here it is, in case you need to be reminded of how blatantly intentional it was (first one):
The Broncos went at Cam Newton's head all night: https://t.co/4HxmQLA88m pic.twitter.com/gQPsnraOFJ— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 9, 2016
It is a very good thing to here Goodell comment on that fact that these types of hits are not to be coached, and if they are, corrective or disciplinary action should be taken. There IS a proper way to take down larger players, or any player really, and we have discussed it at length here on CSR.
Goodell also commented on the concussion protocol and whether it was followed in evaluating Newton. He commented that Cam Newton is ok now and was as such on Thursday, and believes the proper process was followed. However, the NFL is working with the NFLPA to ensure the process is followed correctly each time:
“We formally have started the process with the union [Sunday]. And they were having meetings today on that. We’ll go through the formal process of that and come to a conclusion. It’s very important to us to see, one, did we follow the protocol correctly? Second: If not, we’ll deal with that within the formal context of the program. And then, finally: What can we learn from it? There’s a responsibility on all of us to get better. It’s a relatively new policy. We want to make sure that we’re [finding] the best way to do this and to make changes as necessary, if necessary. Undoubtedly there will be policy changes to it eventually. I don’t know whether it’s related to this one. We’ll see.”
Overall, these words as a whole are very encouraging to hear from the commissioner. They show that the league is looking to take quick action on the matter, and I believe that is best for all players involved. What remains to be seen, however, is whether the officiating crew will face any discipline from the Thursday game. That responsibility rests on the shoulders of Dean Blandino, the NFL’s Vice President of Officiating.
According to Blandino’s official page on NFL.com:
“I’m responsible for all our on-field staff, our internal staff, the administration, the hiring, the training and the retention,” he said. “We evaluate all our officials, and I am in charge of that entire operation.”
“He (Blandino) strives for consistent rulings from all officials on all plays.”
That last bit is what remains to be seen. The game between the Broncos and Panthers has punctuated the fact that larger quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Ben Roethlesberger are not receiving equal protection or enforcement under the rules.
We here at CSR will continue to monitor this situation as it develops, and will be sure to keep all of you updated as new information is released by the league office.