The N.F.L. wants to give players and teams fair warning that it plans to ratchet up discipline for violations of players’ safety rules, the league spokesman Greg Aiello said. Players, coaches and teams will be told Wednesday that future disciplinary actions will be harsher, setting the stage for possible suspensions.
, the linebacker who knocked two out of their game with helmet-to-helmet hits — one was within the rules; the other was a penalty the officials missed, the league said — was fined the most, $75,000, because of previous trouble. Earlier this season, he was fined $5,000 for slamming quarterback Vince Young to the ground while sacking him.
Harrison and his coach, Mike Tomlin, insisted Harrison’s hits were clean and that he should not be fined. Before the fines were announced, Tomlin stood by his remarks, but said he supported harsher penalties and rules changes to ensure player safety.
“I think it is the proper initiative that the N.F.L. has,” Tomlin said. “I think we need to safeguard the men that play this game to the best of our abilities and make it as safe as we can. I’m a proponent of player safety and whatever rule or rule adjustments we need to make to make it safer.”
safety , who committed the most egregious foul when he launched himself into tight end Todd Heap as Heap tried to make a catch, was fined $50,000. And Atlanta Falcons cornerback , who hit receiver DeSean Jackson so violently that both were concussed, was fined $50,000.
In a letter to each of the players, Ray Anderson, the N.F.L.’s executive vice president for football operations, warned that “future offenses will result in an escalation of fines up to and including suspension.”
The failure to suspend players retroactively after one of the N.F.L.’s most troubling days raised the question of whether the league had talked tougher than it was prepared to immediately act.
On Monday, Anderson noted that some players considered fines the cost of doing business and that only suspensions — even for first offenders — were likely to deliver the message that helmet-to-helmet hits would not be tolerated.
The N.F.L. has suspended players for hits without warning. In 2008, safety Eric Smith was suspended a game for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Anquan Boldin. Smith was one of two players suspended that year. In 2009, one player, defensive back Dante Wesley, was suspended. None have been suspended this season.
Aiello said the desire to warn players of increased discipline first was “because the overall level of discipline for these violations is being increased and suspensions will be more likely if these violations continue.”
The reaction to the fines was swift and offered a look at why the N.F.L. will have to battle some of its players in an effort to crack down on helmet-to-helmet hits. linebacker Aaron Curry called the fines “absolutely crazy” on his feed Tuesday, and he took exception to the fine for Harrison. “His hit happen every play!” Curry wrote. “He jus happen to knock somebody out!”
Earlier Tuesday, Patriots Coach raised an issue that also complicates the N.F.L.’s crackdown — the inconsistency of officiating. Harrison’s hit on Browns receiver Mohamed Massoquoi was a foul, Anderson said Monday, but it was not flagged.
“You just have to understand how the game is being officiated and what the calls mean — what’s a block in the back, what isn’t a block in the back; what’s illegal contact, what isn’t illegal contact, what’s pass interference, what isn’t pass interference, what’s holding, what isn’t holding,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of gray areas in all those calls, so we have to learn what those are and hope that the officials call them consistently from week to week, which, that’s an issue, too.”