Over the past few years, the NFL has taken great strides in protecting its players from the hazards of potential debilitating hits to the head and neck region. To that end the league has adopted numerous new rules in an attempt to weed out some of the violent impacts to players that aren't prepared for them.
The end result of these mandates have been a mixed bag of nuts as many veterans have had a hard time adjusting their style to the new 'softer' NFL. The posterchild for this old-school player is Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed.
Over the past two seasons, Reed has been fined three times for helmet-to-helmet hits on players unable to protect themselves. The latest came this past Sunday night during the Steelers-Ravens game when Reed hit Pittsburgh wideout Emmanuel Sanders. The play resulted in a penalty and one day later, the league tried to expand on that with a one game suspension for the repeat offender Reed.
To put this in proper perspective, the suspension would cost Reed an estimated $423, 529.
Obviously Reed appealed this punishment and in a rather shocking move, he won it. It was announced on Tuesday that former defensive coach and current appeals officer Ted Cottrell overturned the suspension and instead fined Reed $50,000 for the hit.
"I do not believe your actions were so egregious as to subject you to a one-game suspension without pay," Cottrell wrote to Reed.
Appointed jointly by the league and NFL Players Association to handle appeals, Cottrell heard the case on Tuesday morning via a conference call that included Reed and quickly handed out his verdict.
While Reed, and his pocketbook, are the winners out of all this, there is a big loser; that's player safety.
You see, Cottrell based his ruling on the fact that the hit Reed put on Sanders wasn't that harsh and while that may be true, it's doesn't take into consideration the repeated violations of player safety that Reed has committed.
The one game suspension wasn't based on one hit but on three separate occurrences over two seasons. That the NFL's punishment was so lightly tossed aside by Cottrell is more than a slap in the face to what the NFL is trying to accomplish in player safety, it's a green light for other players who might now not hesitate as much to deliver a crushing blow.
Sooner rather than later, this whole incident will be an afterthought. But you can expect that if some other player comes under similar scrutiny as Reed has in the future, this ruling may come back to haunt the NFL.
James LeBeau is a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
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