Ever since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell levied those three heavy fines last week there has been reams of copy both pro and con written on the subject of when is a hit on an opposing player one that will hurt him or when is it a blatant violation of the rules?

Collisions that were interpreted by league officials as violent and outside the NFL rule book about unnecessary roughness led to heavy fines handed out by the commissioner’s office. It affected the wallets of Pittsburgh Steelers James Harrison ($75,000), Dunta Robinson ($50,000) of the Atlanta Falcons and Brandon Meriweather ($50,000) of the New England Patriots.

Two articles written on the subject that got our attention appeared on the front page of Sunday’s Houston Chronicle by David Barron and in Foxsports.com on msn by Jason Whitlock.

Although Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 of the NFL rule book is lengthy, using 22 paragraphs to explain everything about unnecessary roughness, Goodell wrote a letter to the players and coaches that said, “Players are expected to play within the rules. Those who do not will face increased discipline, including suspensions, starting with the first offense.”

The Houston Chronicle quoted Miami Dolphins’ linebacker Channing Crowder who said hopefully with tongue-in-cheek, “If they’re going keep making us go more and more and more like a feminine sport, we’re going to wear pink every game.”

The newspaper also had a comment by Merril Hoge, the ESPN analyst and former NFL running back who was forced to retire at 30 because of post-concussion syndrome, “This will help our game. It will make it purer, safer and better.”

Through the first six weeks of the 2010 season, the NFL listed 46 players on the injury list with concussions or other head or neck injuries, up from 24 in 2009.

Elsewhere, management of head and neck injuries has been an issue at the collegiate and high school levels. The University Interscholastic League of Texas has modified its policies to deal with players suffering from head injuries.

The NFL has periodically altered its rules emphasizing player safety going back to 2005 when peel-back blocks were outlawed and unnecessary roughness on blocks away from the football on punters or kickers were dealt similarly to what quarterbacks have after interceptions.

In 2008 five-yard penalties for incidental grabbing of the facemask was eliminated and changed to a 15-yard penalty accessed for intentional grabbing of the facemask. A year later the rule for blocking wedges on kickoffs was changed to involve no more than two players.
And for this season expanded protection was given to defenseless players completing a catch from blows to the head or neck by an opponent who has launched his body. Long snappers receive the same protection.

In a nutshell, the NFL rules haven’t changed much, just the NFL’s enforcement of these current rules.

James Harrison who received last week’s stiffest fine skipped practice last Wednesday and said he was considering retirement. But on Thursday, he said, “I have come to the decision that I cannot and will not let the league office stop me from playing the game that I love.”

According to Whitlock’s article on Foxsports.com he points out that Harrison is six feet tall and 240 pounds, small by NFL standards. He’s one of 14 children, born to working-class parents.

He walked on at Kent State and was not drafted by any NFL team. “He toiled for several seasons as a special-teams daredevil,” Whitlock’s article pointed out. “Harrison struggled academically in high school and college. He’s not a sophisticate.

“James Harrison is a football player, a meathead, a self-made millionaire and star solely because he embraced every aspect of the NFL’s violent culture.

“He’s not Randy Moss or Peyton Manning, players who excel at the game primarily because they were blessed with physical gifts that made their dominance virtually inevitable.

“Harrison earned the 2008 defensive player of the year award and a $50 million contract because he hurt opposing players. For as long as I can remember, hurting—not injuring—the opposition has always been embraced and celebrated in football,” Whitlock added in his article.

“James Harrison is the bad guy? The league fined him $75,000 for doing what he is asked to by his coach Mike Tomlin and the Rooney family which owns the Steelers. Harrison is the focus of the NFL’s helmet-to-helmet controversy? This is a joke. With its out-of-nowhere fines and threats of suspensions, the NFL has attacked Harrison’s identity,” Whitlock’s article concludes.

Whitlock made it clear that his article was not a defense of helmet-to-helmet contact. And it certainly wasn’t an attack on Roger Goodell for trying to improve the safety of his league.
“I’m in full support of what the league is attempting to accomplish. I’m against singling out the players. They inherited football’s violent culture. They’re not the only ones who profit from it, but they suffer the severe health (and now financial) consequences. It’s not right.

“If James Harrison is going to be demonized, fined and suspended, then why shouldn’t Tomlin and the Rooney’s suffer, too,” Whitlock concluded.

There will be several opinions written and heard on the radio and television pertaining to the NFL’s accelerated punishment of something that has been going on for a long time.

This Korner believes that suspensions rather than hefty fines will hurt the guilty teams more than the individual players. But it’s unfair to ask players who earn their living with aggressive tackling to learn how to play more passively.

Many players purposely don’t wear hip pads, thigh pads or elbow pads because the NFL rules don’t require players to wear them. Players claim the pads cause them to lose a fraction of their speed. This Korner looks for the NFL to change rules that will require these pads to be worn by all players which will be a step in the right direction.

KWICKIES…There’s a lot of undercurrent of unhappiness coming from the state capital because of the sudden mediocrity that has infected the Texas Longhorns football program. There’s not as much talk about replacing Head Coach Mack Brown as there is to get rid of offensive coordinator Greg Davis.

When a team loses as many players to graduation and early entry to the NFL, it’s difficult to replace that kind of talent level in a single season.

And speaking of former Longhorns, Orange native Earl Thomas picked off his fourth pass Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals in the six NFL games the Seattle Seahawks have played so far this season. Thomas has a total of 30 tackles and 26 solo stops which are near the top of the list in the NFL along with his four interceptions. He’s already in the running for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

Former LCM and LSU star golfer Scott Sterling finished in a tie for fifth place in last weekend’s Nationwide Tour Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open with rounds of 69-67-70-68—274, two strokes behind winner David Mathis. Sterling collected a nifty check for $19,650.

And while on the subject Jonathan Byrd made history on the PGA Tour last weekend when he won the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital Open by firing a hole-in-one on the fourth extra hole to win a three-man sudden-death playoff. The PGA Tour said it was the first sudden-death playoff decided by an ace. Byrd received a winner’s check for $774,000.

Former Port Neches-Groves and Lamar University golf star Chris Stroud finished seven shots behind Byrd and collected a check for $39,918.

Missouri’s 36-27 upset victory over three-point favored Oklahoma Saturday vaulted the Tigers from No. 18 to No. 7 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll. Oregon retained its No. 1 ranking as did No. 2 Boise State, Auburn moved up two slots to No. 3 after beating LSU, TCU remained No. 4 and Michigan State moved up three places to No. 5. Alabama is No. 6, Utah No. 8, Wisconsin No. 9 and Ohio State is No. 10. Baylor at No. 25 moved into the Top 25 for the first time in 17 years.

JUST BETWEEN US…Wonder how many baseball fans picked the San Francisco Giants to oppose our Texas Rangers in the World Series when the playoff first began a couple of weeks ago? The action begins Wednesday in San Francisco for two games, moves to Arlington for three games starting Saturday and then returns (if necessary) to the West Coast next Wednesday. After watching both teams during the playoffs, this Korner believes the Texas Rangers could win in seven games.