Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders makes a catch before being drilled… (Doug Kapustin / MCT )
Baltimore's Ed Reed, among the best safeties in NFL history, has been suspended by the league for one game for repeated headhunting.
Reed will not be allowed to practice this week, and cannot play in Sunday's game at San Diego.
According to the NFL, his personal-foul penalty in Sunday night's game at Pittsburgh was the third time in the last three seasons Reed violated the rule against hitting defenseless players in the head or neck area. He was flagged for his hit on Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
In the last few years, the league has stepped up its precautions and penalties related to head injuries, and this season has suspended two offenders — Reed and Denver linebacker Joe Mays, who sat out a game after an illegal hit on Houston quarterback Matt Schaub.
"We cannot tolerate repeated violations of rules, especially rules related to player safety," Ray Anderson, NFL executive vice president of football operations, said Monday. "We will continue to take the strongest possible action to deter these types of violations and protect our players."
Reed's previous transgressions:
• On Sept. 23, 2012, against the New England Patriots, Reed was penalized for unnecessary roughness and fined $21,000 for striking a defenseless player, wide receiver Deion Branch, in the head and neck area.
• On Dec. 19, 2010, against the New Orleans Saints, Reed was penalized for roughing the passer and fined $10,000 for unnecessarily striking the quarterback, Drew Brees, in the head and neck area.
The suspension may be appealed within three business days, and an expedited hearing and decision would take place this week in advance of Sunday's game.
Appeals are heard and decided by either Art Shell or Ted Cottrell, the officers jointly appointed and compensated by the NFL and NFL Players Assn. to decide appeals of on-field player discipline.