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It may not be the truth, but given the aggressive, if nonsensical, position that the NFL has taken with regard to allegedly “flagrant fouls” – it might as well be. Gone are the days where aggressive play that resulted in unintentional, illegal contact used to be handled via a penalty flag and everyone moved on. Flagrant, intentional fouls were handled appropriately by the league office.

James Harrison

NFL fans everywhere rolled their collective eyes when the league cracked down on excessive celebrating by its players. This resulted in subsequent abuse of the NFL acronym, turning it into the No Fun League. Well, here’s a new one for you and it’s just as apropros: No Ferocity League. Others include: Nonsensical Fines League, Numerous Flags League, and the Nancyboy Fairy League.

NFL Vice President, Ray Anderson, is on the record as having said that the league may start suspending NFL players for dangerous helmet-to-helmet hits. That’s simply not going to happen because the NFL Charities would wonder where they would replace such a steep infusion of cash. From their website:

On-field Fine Money

NFL Charities has traditionally donated funds to charitable causes from annual revenues generated by on-field disciplinary fines levied against players and coaches. This on-field fine money has netted more than $2 million per year for distribution to a variety of worthwhile charitable organizations over the last four years.

Organizations that have received this funding support through NFL Charities include the Partnership for Clean Competition, the Brian Piccolo Memorial Fund, the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Care Center and the NFL Player Care Foundation.

Additionally, one-quarter of the total fine money received by NFL Charities each year is donated to support former players in need through the NFL Player Association’s Player Assistance Trust (PAT).

I’m all for using this windfall of fine money to support important charities. However, the league’s purported seriousness regarding concussions and other head injuries necessitates a shift in donation strategy. 100% of the on-field and off-field fine money, the money that is summarily confiscated from current players bank accounts, should go to the NFL Player Association’s Player Assistance Trust (PAT). If the NFL wants to donate to all of those other very worthy charities, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much of a hardship to dig into the multiple billions of dollars that they pocket annually to continue their upstanding, philanthropic ways.

All kidding aside, a long ago Sports Illustrated article: The Wrecking Yard (2001) put the grim reality of post-career pain, disability, and brain-injury right into the face of the public. It’s a reality that none of us often consider when we’re cheering the devastating hits that are delivered week-in and week-out over the course of each player’s career. We pay even less attention to offensive and defensive linemen who are crashing into each other on every single play. That’s just one article. Many others are significantly more damning of the NFL and it’s shoddy treatment of the former players on whom they’ve built their empire.

We can debate and discuss how player safety is of paramount importance. We can break down the game films of all of these hits that are resulting in massive arbitrary fines that don’t seem to make any sense in their application whatsoever. Let me keep it simple for everyone:

- James Harrison is not completely innocent. He’s also not completely guilty. He is, however, the NFL’s poster-child for financial abuse.

- I’ve seen most of the devastating hits that have resulted in fines and I’d argue successfully that not all are helmet-to-helmet.

- Fines are being handed down on clean hits that are not helmet-to-helmet.

- Fines are being handed down for “horse-collar tackles” that aren’t.

- Fines are being handed down for hits on some quarterbacks that are not levied against hits on other quarterbacks. Apparently, the pretty-boys are more valuable to the league than the tougher and less-popular guys. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Phillip Rivers should wear dresses. Michael Vick, Josh Freeman, David Garrard – good luck getting healthy.

I have no good answer for the long-term injury issues that plague former NFL players. These same issues are ultimately going to impact the current NFL players. Fines and suspensions simply cannot stop progress and that progress is that the monsters that we watch every year are getting bigger, stronger, and faster than ever. It’s only going to get worse.

Fining and suspending these players is not going to stop the devastation that is brought to bear on the football battlefield every week. Frankly, it’s only pissing off the fans and the players alike. The majority of these hits are not of the “head-hunter” variety but a result of the speed and body positions that are changing every second of every play as it unfolds before our eyes. While intent is very subjective, it’s not too difficult to determine when a player is deliberately going to another’s head or not.

The league needs to stop stealing from the players for playing the game hard. If they continue to do so – the least that they can do is to apply all of the fines that they abscond with to benefit former NFL players who will undoubtedly suffer long term problems as a result of their sacrifices on the field. At least in that regard, James Harrison and company will cough up the dough knowing it will be coming back to them when they need it the most.

Want to read all of the gory details? See – Former NFL Players: Disabilities, Benefits, and Related Issues from the Congressional Research Office. Want to see it in live action format? Grab some tickets to see Harrison and his “no holds barred” aggressive play.