Sports Law • Risk Management

December 11, 2010: NFL Illegal Hit Post-Game Enforcement: Ravens-Steelers

Sometimes officials on the football field will miss calling an illegal hit, but the NFL is monitoring the videotapes and imposing fines against athletes after-the-fact. Kudos to the NFL for taking this stance, however, it is time for the NFL to turn up the heat by putting pressure on the teams to prevent these illegal hits from occurring.

Last weekend Jameel McClain of the Baltimore Ravens made a hit against a defenseless player, Heath Miller, of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a result of the illegal hit, Miller was left sprawled on the field, and later declared to have sustained a concussion. Although no flag was drawn on the play, McClain was later slapped with a $40,000 fine by the NFL.

In the same exact game, Haloti Ngata, also of the Baltimore Ravens, was fined $15,000 by the NFL for breaking the nose of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. In an illegal action, Ngata’s hand went through Roethlisberger’s facemask, which left Roethlisberger with a bloody nose. Both of these illegal hits occurring in the same game raises questions about the Ravens team in general. Is Baltimore endorsing the use of illegal hits?

While the NFL is making attempts to enforce penalties for illegal hits, what would be significant financial penalties to the average working man are considerably small fines for these NFL pros. At least, however, the NFL is taking a stand and assessing penalties after the fact. Concussions are serious problem and even Roethlisberger’s broken nose could have turned out to also include a concussion.

Though, perhaps teams, in addition to individual athletes, should also be assessed fines for multiple illegal hits in one game. In light of the double dose of illegal hits which caused injuries to two Steelers’ players in last week’s Baltimore-Pittsburgh game, perhaps the pressure needs to be put on team owners to reduce illegal hits made by their teams. Sure football is meant to be an aggressive game, but now that the NFL has classified certain hits as being illegal, the NFL should do all they can to make sure the rule is followed, not simply enforced. Fining teams may just be the added motivation needed to prevent some injuries from occurring.