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The NFL is deprioritizing consistency in the name of player safety

By Jacob Feldman
December 06, 2017

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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PRESS COVERAGE

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1. Ryan Shazier update: the Steelers linebacker is expected to stay another day or two at a hospital in Cincinnati before being transferred back to Pittsburgh. "Thank you for the prayers," Shazier tweeted. "Your support is uplifting to me and my family.​" No surgery is expected for the spinal injury he incurred during Monday Night Football.

2. Podcast and video game fans should check out ESPN's audio story of how John Madden built a video game empire. There's also a transcript for those who prefer the written word.

3. The Chargers-to-L.A. story has changed since they surged into playoff contention. But the Chargers-playing-in-a-soccer-stadium story is still a mess, as Kevin Clark found out when he visited. "This is more of a misadventure, an earnest idea quickly gone south," he says.

4. We are witnessing an explosion of African players in the NFL. Talk of an international league often centers around games in Mexico City or London, but maybe the continent of Africa and the players it is producing represent the best proof of the league's global potential.

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5. Suddenly, good news keeps coming for the 49ers. After Jimmy Garoppolo looked promising during a win in Chicago, Reuben Foster was named the NFL's defensive rookie of the month.

6. Jim Caldwell narrowly avoided our list of at-risk coaches earlier this week. But he shouldn't be comfortable. Two questions will decide his future according to Dave Birkett.

7. A day after being fired by the Giants, and nearly 23 years since he joined the team, Jerry Reese thanked the franchise. Now that his role in this year's disaster is over, it's time to appreciate the run he had, including two Super Bowls his talent evaluation skills played a key part in.

8. Want to understand Seattle's turnaround? Learn these five names.

9. "[Alvin] Kamara leads a wave of young backs who have been developing receiving skills for years," Adam Kilgore explains. "The rise of offseason passing leagues and pass-heavy spread offenses in college have created a new breed of running back."

10. With four weeks to play, Gregg Rosenthal updates the NFL award races. That Kamara guy makes an appearance.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.


THE KICKER

Neil deGrasse Tyson has weighed in on Russell Wilson's controversial lateral. Hopefully your high school physics textbook is handy.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

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