Last week’s controversy is this week’s afterthought – or at least it seemed that way following the hubbub over league fines for flagrant and dangerous hits. Players were lauded by Ray Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, for their clean play in 13 games Sunday.
Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? While the threat of more hefty fines and even suspensions for hitting defenseless players had an impact, the key culprits last week were praised for getting the message sent by the league office. There were no flags thrown for such hits.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Anderson praised New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, saying they “heeded our emphasis” about eliminating dangerous hits. Both players, plus Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, were fined last week.
“We like to think we're off to a good start in terms of the new emphasis and the recognition that we are going to play aggressively but well within the rules,” Anderson said. “It's a good start.”
Anderson said Meriweather “made two very tenacious, effective and legal hits in similar situations (against the San Diego Chargers). But you could see it, he lowered the target area, blasted the opponent with his shoulder. He adapted, showing it can be done. It is appropriate to praise him for the tough play.”
Speaking of Harrison, Anderson said: “There certainly was one play, on a hit on a running back, that James Harrison may have taken a shot at the running back going down, and Harrison let up. I think he acknowledged he let up when had a chance to put his head and helmet in there. I applaud James for restraining himself.”
Harrison, who contemplated retirement if he couldn’t play the way he was taught, said he wasn’t trying to send a message with his play. “There was no extra motivation for this or any other game,” he added. “I was just out there playing the game the way that I've been taught to play it since I was 10 years old.”