Veteran corner Ed Reed was flagged for a blow to the head against the Steelers Emmanuel Sanders on Sunday night. This being his third offense, the NFL handed down a one game suspension. Reed appealed the suspension today and won that appeal. The NFL lowered the penalty to just a $50k fine. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh attended the appeal and spoke on behalf of Reed. By doing so, he has sent the wrong message to the league, owners, coaches, players, and fans about the state of player safety.
Harbaugh said that each of Reed’s offenses were not of ill intent and that Reed is a good upstanding man and respects the game and his fellow players. Well great. I’m pretty sure that 90% of helmet to helmet contact is not meant to injure. And probably the same ratio of actual players are ‘nice guys.’ But that doesn’t mean they should escape the penalty that is laid out by the NFL.
Is there an inherent problem with the way the rules are structured? Absolutely. It’s ludicrous to put the whole blame on a defender when the offensive player is adding a huge variable to the helmet to helmet equation – movement. And until they come up with a more effective way to address how they define/scrutinize/penalize helmet to helmet hits, it will continue to be a flawed system and a point of contention with players and fans. However, until that aspect of the game sees improvement, the players must live within the confines of the rules – no matter how frustrating it is for all of us. Does this screw with the game because defenders are quick to pull up on a hit or take a bad angle? Yes. Should the NFL explore penalizing the offensive guy for putting the selves into a position for a helmet to helmet? Is that even possible? Don’t know, but why should this all sit on the defensive side of the ball?
Oh right, this was supposed to be about Harbaugh. Well in typical Harbaugh fashion, he puts his credibility on the line as a good coach who cares about his own players’ safety by using garbaged reasoning as to why Reed should not be subjected to the written rule. Who cares if Reed is a good guy? He still broke the rule as it is written and should be doled out the punishment as it is written. Would he feel the same way if it were Polamalu or Harrison hitting Tory Smith or Ray Rice? Hell no. His only concern for being at the appeal was because he wants his starting safety next week against the Chargers because his defense needs all the help it can get. It’s crap and I can’t believe that he would do that and that the league/arbitrators would even hear that out. It’s a slipper slope. ’Come on ref. That guy never holds and he’s a good guy. Why did you throw that flag on him?! He shouldn’t be penalized!’ Where would it end?
Are there problems with helmet to helmet? Yeah. But should players get a pass on the written out penalties based on whether they are good guys or did not have ill intent? No. Should coaches join in and whine about it to the arbitrators. Nope. Otherwise every Tom, Dick, and Harrison will be in those offices playing the world’s smallest violin.