The rough and tumble conditions of the Monday night football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers could have some lasting repercussions, according to an article from ESPN released earlier this morning.
In an interview with ESPN, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said that changing targeting rules “is something we have to consider.” He also talked about how the decision would need to be discussed in depth due to the fact that “there is a bunch of other different ramifications that come along with that.” These comments stem from the penalties received by Bengals safety George Iloka and Steelers receiver Juju Smith Schuster during the game on Monday, both of which were extremely controversial in nature, and the latter of which resulted in Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict being carted off the field due to injury. The hit by Iloka on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the end zone warranted a penalty and earned Iloka a suspension, but was surprisingly overturned on Wednesday afternoon to the outrage of many Pittsburgh fans who believed the same should be done for Schuster.
The current rule states that hits on defenseless players are not reviewable, but changing that rule could be the solution the league is searching for. After one of the worst weekends in recent memory involving illegal hits and suspensions being handed down to a number of popular players (including a certain rambunctious New England Patriots tight end), it’s obvious that adjustments need to be made in order to avoid more cheap shots from occurring.
College football has a simple rule: if you receive a targeting penalty, you’re immediately ejected from the game. This rule has seemingly prevented the number of incidents involving violent and late collisions from increasing in the few years since its inception, and has contributed to better games and less uproar from fans. If the NFL was smart, they would consider implementing this rule into their own guidelines for both the safety of their players and protection of their brands.
Football is supposed to be a rough, and sometimes dangerous sport, but at what point do we sacrifice player safety for enjoyment? Has it become too late to make an adjustment, or should we expect more incidents like these to occur before serious actions are taken?