Bears players on Wednesday reacted angrily to the NFL's decision to crack down on what it considers "devastating hits."
The league fined Steelers linebacker James Harrison $75,000 Tuesday, and Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson each were fined $50,000 for what the league called dangerous and flagrant hits in last week's games. Players have been warned that, starting this weekend, helmet-to-helmet hits will be cause for suspension, even for first-time offenders.
"It's all bull [crap] in my opinion," cornerback Charles Tillman said. "The league, they're all suits now. They don't know. They're making bad decisions for the game."
The NFL has taken a tough stand on helmet-to-helmet hits for years, but Meriweather was the only fined player whose tackle involved helmet-to-helmet contact.
Robinson led with his shoulder and hit Jackson in the chest-shoulder area. There's no denying it was a frightening and violent collision, but it was not illegal, according to every one of the Bears player who spoke on Wednesday.
"To me, that's good football," said safety Chris Harris, who is known for his physical style of play. "I'm all for player safety. But our job as a defender is to jar the ball loose, separate the ball carrier from the ball. If I can't get there to knock the ball down, I'm supposed to separate him from the ball. That's the way football's always been. That's just the game. And for Dunta Robinson to get fined $50,000 for making a great football play is unheard of. It frustrates me to see this happen. I totally understand the Meriweather hit. It was a bad play. But James Harrison, he's just making a football play."
Players also criticized the league for its hypocrisy. NFL.com sells DVDs and photos that feature big hits, yet it fines the players who make those hits.
Now, officials have been granted the power to eject players for those same flagrant hits from which the league makes money.
CB Charles Tillman
"It's a contact sport," Tillman said. "It's physical. You know what you're getting into when you put on that helmet. Now, granted, some guys are going to get hurt. I apologize for that. I don't want anyone to get hurt. But what our coaches and every coach in this league tells players is you want to separate the player from the ball. You want to hit him hard. We get jacked up for that. You all get jacked up for that. They replay it on the Jumbotron at every game when there's a big hit. If it's an illegal hit to the head and on purpose, I'm not for that. But if you're just out there playing and you hit a guy, and he moves and it alters your angle when you're making a tackle, that's the game."
Although the Steelers' Harrison has said he's considering retirement if he cannot continue to play the way he always has, most players say they won't change their approach.
"I play football, man," Harris said. "I signed up to play this game. Nobody's forcing me to play. I know the ramifications. I don't think anyone in this locker room or in any locker room in the NFL is intentionally trying to go out and harm anyone or hit anybody or cause significant injury to them. [But], yeah, you want them to feel you.
"If I hit somebody coming across the middle, I want them to think twice the next time they come across, and they might drop the ball. That's football."
But to some players it seems the league wants to change the game.
"We should go out there and play two-hand touch Sunday if we can't make contact," Tillman said.
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