NEW YORK – The NFL will look into adding targeting as a specific category for video review.
Troy Vincent, the league’s football operations chief, says it is on the agenda to discuss with the competition committee and the players’ union after the season.
In responding to questions about helmet-to-helmet hits and players launching to make tackles, Vincent said Wednesday that the NFL has seen targeting reviews “work to a degree” in the college game.
“I think it is something that we have to consider,” Vincent said. “We’ve seen that it has worked to a certain degree, it’s clean. ... We think there have been some positives and we have talked to some of the conferences and the officials there, as well as with some student-athletes. It is a deterrent and something that we will consider; it is one of our agenda items to discuss during the offseason as we speak to the coaches and the competition committee.
“It needs to be discussed because there are a lot of other ramifications that come along with that. It is on our agenda to be discussed beginning in February.”
Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap wants no part of the college’s targeting ejection system.
“I don’t want to do all that. I think they go overboard in college with the ejections,” he said. “You know some of them are football plays. If a kid gets ejected for that, I don’t think that’s right. But they don’t have fines in college, so I don’t know how you handle that one.”
Vincent also noted that coaches, general managers, owners and players are adamant about not wanting players ejected from games unless there is no other option.
“We don’t want to be in the business of ejecting players,” Vincent said. “There are only 17 weeks and the philosophy is, if it gets out of control, we ask the referees to maintain control of the game, give them that flexibility. They have that flexibility, but we really emphasize let the players play, but if things begin to get out of control, you must maintain control of the game during that window.”
There have been nine suspensions in 2017 for on-field acts. Ejections are much rarer, of course.
“We have had clear directives from the competition committee,” Vincent said. “They asked us and the players to remove some of the helmet-to-helmet hits that we have seen, as well of some of the blindside blocks and other types of disparaging techniques and behaviors on the field.
“We have clear directive that this is not something that should be progressive, but that we strongly consider removing a player that is using these techniques that we want out of our game immediately.”
The league also will consider adding a category for non-football acts that break the rules, such as Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s hit on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White.
Gronkowski drew a one-game suspension under unnecessary roughness guidelines. White is in the league’s concussion protocol.
“We’ve seen a few of these on occasion. It’s something that Jon (Runyan, who handles some NFL disciplinary cases) has raised to myself, and he’s actually raised to the appeals officers,” Vincent said.
“He’ll bring that up in February when we begin meeting with our competition committee, our coaches’ subcommittee and our GMs. We will also bring this up with the NFL Players Association, but it is something that we do need to review.”
Asked about potential mixed messages the NFL could be sending when it suspends Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and Bengals safety George Iloka one game apiece for egregious hits in Monday night’s game, then changes Iloka’s discipline to only a fine on appeal, Vincent insisted the appeals reviews have been “very consistent, fair and firm.” He emphasized that appeals officers James Thrash and Derrick Brooks are employees of the league and the union.
“I just think they try to send a message more than anything,” Steelers player representative Ramon Foster said. “They screwed it up. You say you’re concerned over player safety, but you had a guy who blatantly had a helmet to helmet and didn’t get suspended. You had a guy that just did a taunting and you try to justify it by suspending him. That’s not player safety.
“Then you have another situation where a guy plows into another guy and you suspend him for one game. Why one game? Why not multiple games? Because the Steelers play the Patriots next week.”