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Players may face suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  October 18, 2010 02:03 PM

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Ray Anderson, the NFL's vice president of football operations, told the Associated Press today that the league may soon start suspending players for helmet-to-helmet hits.

In other words, you probably shouldn't stray too far from your phone, Brandon Meriweather.

Anderson made his comments a day after a number vicious and perhaps avoidable collisions in Sunday's games, including the blow to the head Meriweather delivered to Ravens tight end Todd Heap in the second quarter yesterday.

Meriweather, who launched himself toward Heap as he was being pulled down by another Patriot, was penalized 15 yards. The hit left Heap crumpled on the ground for several minutes, though he later returned to the game.

Amazingly, Meriweather's hit probably wasn't the most dangerous of the day. After a crushing hit by Falcons defensive back Dunta Robinson on Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, both players were knocked out of the game, and Jackson reportedly has a severe concussion. And Steelers linebacker James Harrison sidelined a pair of Browns players with head injuries.

"There's strong testimonial for looking readily at evaluating discipline, especially in the areas of egregious and elevated dangerous hits," Anderson told the AP in a phone interview, noting that changes could come immediately. "Going forward there are certain hits that occurred that will be more susceptible to suspension. There are some that could bring suspensions for what are flagrant and egregious situations."

During his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Dale and Holley Show" this afternoon, Meriweather said he wasn't trying to injure Heap and hopes there isn't an overreaction to the play.

"I just attacked," Meriweather said. "I wasn't trying to hit head-to-head contact or injure anybody or play dirty in any kind of way. It just happened."

"I don't want to make a big deal out of it," he added. "I was playing aggressive and something happened. I'm trying not to look at it and make it a big deal, like everybody else is doing. ... It's football. You've got a lot of good players, where you think one thing, and another thing can happen in a split-second. So, you've always got to make a split-second decision, and my split-second decision was to be aggressive and not wait for it."

NBC studio analyst Rodney Harrison, who played in the Patriots' defensive backfield with Meriweather for two seasons and was once suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit himself, said that a fine is no deterrent for players.

"You didn't get my attention when you fined me 5 grand, 10 grand, 15 grand," Harrison said. "You got my attention when I got suspended and I had to get away from my teammates and I disappointed my teammates from not being there. But you have to suspend these guys. These guys are making millions of dollars."

When apprised of Harrison's comments during his radio appearance, Meriweather laughed and said, "Hot Rod has his opinion on a lot of things. I think if was playing he wouldn't have said anything like that. I don't think he would said that, period, if he was playing still."

Meriweather, who noted that he's good friends with Heap, with whom he shares an agent, said he hasn't seen the hit and doesn't want to, though it may be unavoidable in the film room.

"Everybody keeps telling me about it, so I kind of don't want to see it, to be honest," he said.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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