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Stop Trying to Make Sense of NFL Suspension Boom

The NFL is deprioritizing consistency in the name of player safety

The suspensions keep coming. Tuesday, the league announced that JuJu Smith-Schuster and George Iloka would each be suspended one game for separate dangerous hits during Monday night's game. While that was the right decision in isolation, it's still part of a troublesome trend for the league. In addition to the Rob Gronkowski punishment handed down a day earlier, there have now been 10 suspensions given for on-field misconduct in 2017. Last year, there were zero according to Spotrac's logs. (There were three in 2015.)

Of course, there are obvious reasons for the uptick. This season, there is an emphasis on eliminating "egregious hits," and on top of that a preference to suspend players after the game rather than eject them during the game to allow time for careful consideration. But the NFL is wading into troubled waters, because now, rather than discussing how to make the game safer, fans are crying foul.

Cameron DaSilva tweeted several of the hits that have drawn suspensions to highlight the lack of coherence between punishments. Other reporters chimed in to concur and to say a player and agent also did not understand the league's thinking. As compelling of a case as DaSilva made, he left off two even more inscrutable discrepancies. If Iloka's hit on Antonio Brown was suspension-worthy, why was Darian Stewart only fined a week earlier for leveling Amari Cooper (who remains in the concussion protocol, by the way). And Smith-Schuster ought to argue that his penalty be no stiffer than the one Packers tight end Richard Rodgers got for seemingly aiming directly for Steelers safety Sean Davis's head on a crackback block during Week 12. Plus, were either Iloka or Smith-Schuster's wrongdoings truly as egregious as Gronkowski's?

What's going on here? Clearly, the NFL is deprioritizing consistency in the name of player safety. That's probably the right call. Parents aren't barring their kids from playing football due to the league's punishment flow chart anytime soon. So fans ought to accept the new reality. Their favorite player could be made the next example.

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