N.F.L. to Fine 3 Players for Helmet-to-Helmet Hits

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.”

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Falcons Score in Final Minute to Outlast Ravens

The Falcons were up, 20-7, after Ryan went to White on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 11 minutes 34 seconds remaining. Baltimore rallied behind Joe Flacco’s two touchdown passes, the second a 9-yarder to Todd Heap with 1:05 left.

Back came the Falcons, who improved to 18-1 at home with Ryan as the starter. He needed less than a minute to pull off an 80-yard drive, hooking up with Michael Jenkins on a third-down pass along the sideline before going back to White for the winner.

White appeared to push off on Josh Wilson, but there was no flag, and he cruised into the end zone.

MEETING TO DISCUSS FAVRE Jenn Sterger, the woman to whom is accused of sending lewd photos and inappropriate text messages, met with investigators from the , her manager said.

The manager, Phil Reese, said in an e-mail that Sterger met with league officials and that “we cooperated fully by providing them with substantial materials in our possession. We now await the N.F.L.’s decision.”

The N.F.L. is examining whether Favre, now the quarterback of the , sent Sterger messages and photos while he was with in 2008 and she was a game hostess for the team.

The N.F.L. spokesman Greg Aiello said the league had no comment.

Favre could face disciplinary action under the league’s personal-conduct policy.

The accusations arose last month in a report on the Web site Deadspin.

The site said Sterger would not agree to an interview and acknowledged that it paid a third party for the texts, voicemails and explicit photos, said to be of Favre, that it posted online.

Favre, a three-time most valuable player, is dealing with two ankle fractures and elbow tendinitis, and took 10 stitches in his chin after getting hit against the on Oct. 31.

PLAYER COLLAPSES Cleveland Browns linebacker Marcus Benard collapsed in the locker room and was taken to a hospital, where he is undergoing tests, a team spokesman said.

Benard was sitting in a chair in front of his locker when he fell to the carpeted floor. Some of his teammates, who were getting dressed for practice, thought he may have been joking before linebacker Matt Roth yelled for a trainer.

Benard did not appear to lose consciousness and his eyes were open as three members of Cleveland’s training staff checked on him.

Benard, who leads the Browns with 4.5 sacks this season, was sitting up and appeared alert when he was wheeled out of the team’s facility and placed in an ambulance. He collapsed just as the 45-minute news media interview period was ending.

The Browns host the Jets on Sunday.

MERRIMAN OUT FOR SUNDAY A nagging injury is preventing linebacker Shawne Merriman from getting off on the right foot with his new team, the .

Coach Chan Gailey said that Merriman would not play against the this weekend, and would be out indefinitely after aggravating an injury to his right Achilles’ tendon a day earlier.

The injury, which occurred in Merriman’s first practice with the team and only a week after he was claimed off waivers from San Diego, is to the same tendon that bothered him for much of the past year.

MIGRAINE SIDELINES HARVIN Minnesota’s Percy Harvin missed practice for the second straight day because of a migraine headache.

Coach Brad Childress said Harvin, a wide receiver and kickoff returner, was visiting a doctor again after his absence on Wednesday. Harvin, who has a history of migraines, is also dealing with a sprained left ankle he sustained in the Oct. 31 game at New England.

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