UPDATE: The Commish is wise. He has indeed overturned the fine on Tuck after reviewing the tape.
Another day, another series of fines from Comrade Goodell. And one of them is likely to backfire on the National Football League.
Justin Tuck of the Giants was fined $7,500 for this hit on Cowboys quarterback Brooks Bollinger:
When the quarterback more or less jumps into the hit, it’s a bad call. When the tackler lets go as he’s falling to prevent his “full body weight” from coming down on the quarterback, it’s a bad call. Hell, when Troy Aikman, an ex-quarterback who retired because of too many concussions, disagrees with a call that ostensibly protects the quarterback, it’s a bad call.
If the NFL was smart, they’d overturn this on appeal, because every linebacker and defensive end in the league is developing this attitude right now: “If I’m going to get fined whether the hit is dirty or not, I might as well get my money’s worth and go for the dirty hit.” Don’t think for one minute that this sentiment isn’t floating around your team’s locker room right now.
Obviously, the NFL has good reason to protect quarterbacks, considering this list of starting QBs on Injured Reserve, or listed as Out or Doubtful for this week: Kyle Boller (BAL), Tom Brady (NE), Brodie Croyle (KC), Matt Hasselbeck (SEA), Damon Huard (KC), Jon Kitna (DET), Dan Orlovski (DET), Kyle Orton (CHI), Carson Palmer (CIN), Matt Schaub (HOU), Alex Smith (SF). Croyle and Orlovski replaced Huard and Kitna, respectively, when they went on IR. Detroit just pulled Daunte Culpepper off the street.
Ben Roethlisberger is officially listed as probable, but will probably be a game-time decision, and may be one more hard hit away from really being out. His backup, Byron Leftwich, is only with the Steelers because Ben’s original backup, Charlie Batch, is on IR.
Tony Romo is questionable, coming back from an injury to his throwing hand, which is why Bollinger was in there in the first place.
That’s all the more reason to ensure that Justin Tuck’s hit is not fined. If the league office, after poring over replays from every camera angle, can’t tell a clean hit from a dirty one, how do they expect referees and players to tell the difference, at full speed, in the heat of battle? That’s why plays like that are reviewed later. If the refs miss a dirty play, then that player should be fined, and when the refs botch a clean play, then the league should admit it, learn from it, and move on.
With every bad fine for a clean hit, you’ll see more and more players thinking, “Ah, $%&@ it. It’s clobberin’ time!” And if the league responds with more and/or larger fines, it will just keep escalating until, God forbid, somebody suffers an injury that is career-ending, life-altering, or possibly fatal.
Dirty hits will be punished. We get that message, loud and clear. It’s time for the NFL to send the message that clean hits will not be punished.