INDIANAPOLIS – The National Football League is close to implementing a system in which teams could be on the financial hook if its players have multiple in-game safety penalties, such as helmet-to-helmet hits.
This follows on the decision four years ago to hold teams responsible for off-field conduct of all employees.
“We are looking at a system…to really encourage clubs and coaches to teach the proper techniques and to correct dangerous play on the field,” said Adolpho Birch, the NFL’s vice president of law and labor policy. “We are still working on some of the details, we were talking extensively to the competition committee and others, but the basic point of it would be to check the number of fines that are going out for infractions that relate to various safety violations, whether it be spearing or late hits or especially in regards to head and helmet issues, and try to modify those over the course of the year. As a club’s total gets higher, to a certain threshold, then we will impose some penalty and payback for those clubs to help encourage them to stay below that threshold.
“We’ve got a lot to do on it, we’ve got a lot to think about in terms of what types of infractions we want to include and what exactly we want to do with the threshold and things like resetting and things like that for the season.”
The penalties would be “significant and reasonable” financially. Birch said it would also be within the discretion of Commissioner Roger Goodell to go further in doling out punishment.
Birch said that under the thresholds currently being discussed, three or four teams would have been subject to the additional fines last year.
Birch also discussed the NFL scrapping this year’s rookie symposium because of the lockout. The event is mandatory for all draft picks and it aids in their assimilation to the professional life.
“I think it’s fair to say we waited as long as we possibly could,” Birch said. “It’s an extremely large, complex event that requires a lot of people, not only from an attendance standpoint but all the panelists, the crew, the youth camps associated with it. It really is a large production and we just felt that we had gotten to the point, based on the uncertainty that we have in labor right now, where we needed to be fair to those that would be asked to come and help us put it on. Given that, we thought we needed to make a decision, and this is about as late as we could do it.”
The education of rookies will now fall more on the teams.
“It’s going to be incumbent on teams to do more,” Birch said. “Our office will also try to assist the clubs in formulating alternatives. We’re going to try to figure out ways to possibly work through it as best we can. It’s unfortunate, we think the rookie symposium is an outstanding event, but it is an unfortunate casualty of where we are right now.”