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Flagrant hits on defenseless players will result in suspensions


The NFL Competition Committee wants to put players on notice: The league plans to get even more stringent in protecting defenseless players -- and suspending players who take cheap shots at their opponent.

Competition Committee Chair Rich McKay and NFL Executive V.P. of Football Operations Ray Anderson both stressed on a media conference call today that they’re recommending that the owners get even tougher with hits on defenseless players. That includes expanding the definition of what constitutes a “defenseless” player, and suspending players for particularly egregious hits.

“When warranted, suspensions will be an effective discipline for us. We don’t want to go there but we will do that,” Anderson said. “We need to be aggressive in disciplining.”

Although no individual players were mentioned by name, it’s clear that repeat offenders, like Steelers linebacker James Harrison, are going to get particular scrutiny.

“In 2011, if there are repeat offenders or flagrant violators, we are going to hold them aggressively accountable, even if it means suspension -- some folks believe that suspension is the real messenger in terms of serious enforcement,” Anderson said. “Some of the hits we had this year, particularly if it’s a repeat offender, that person and that club should know that having that person sit out a game -- or multiple games in certain circumstances -- is very much on the table.”

McKay said that when the Competition Committee met recently, “Much of the focus was on the safety rules.” In particular, the Committee is recommending that the owners vote next week on an expansion of the defenseless player rule to protect quarterbacks in the process of passing, receivers in the process of catching, runners who are already in the grasp of a tackler, returners fielding a kick, players on the ground at the end of a play, kickers and punters, quarterbacks at any time after a change of possession, and players who get hit by blindside blocks.

The Committee also wants to emphasize the prohibition on launching, which it defines as players leaving their feet, springing forward and hitting an opponent with his helmet or facemask.

Owners are expected to approve the Competition Committee’s recommendations at next week’s league meeting.