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Multiple flagrant hits could lead to increased penalties for NFL teams

Players and teams are now eligible to be fined and if a yet-to-be-determined threshold is met, draft picks could be lost.

May 24, 2011|By Sam Farmer
  • Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker James Harrison was fined for his illegal hit on Cleveland wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi during a game last season.
Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker James Harrison was fined for his illegal… (Don Wright / Associated…)

NFL teams on Tuesday unanimously agreed to stiffen penalties for multiple flagrant hits resulting in fines.

Beginning this season — assuming the lockout is lifted — it won't be just individual offenders who are eligible for fines, but their teams as well.

The league has not determined how many player fines will trigger team punishment, which in severe cases could include the loss of draft picks.

"As a club's total increases to a certain threshold, we will enforce some … payback to encourage clubs to stay below that threshold," Adolpho Birch, an NFL vice president, told reporters at league meetings in Indianapolis. "We're looking at a system similar to one we instituted a couple years ago with off-field conduct."

The player who received the most fines for illegal hits last season was Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, who was slapped with $100,000 in penalties.

Also Tuesday, teams voted unanimously in favor of other player-safety rules, including one aimed at keeping a player from launching himself into a defenseless opponent. Anyone who leaves both feet to launch himself forward and upward into an opponent, delivering a helmet-to-helmet blow, will receive a 15-yard penalty.

In a casualty of the labor fight, the league canceled next month's annual rookie symposium — the first event called off because of the lockout.

"We waited as long as we possibly could," Birch said. "The rookie symposium is an extremely large, complex event that requires a lot of people from an attendance standpoint. Based on the uncertainty of the labor situation, it's to the point we needed to be fair to those who would come to help us put it on."

This year's event was to begin June 26 and take place at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

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