This offseason, the NFL’s competition committee will discuss adding a targeting penalty similar to the rule that exists in college football, executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said on Wednesday.
The enforcement of the penalty would likely allow for possible ejections, which would be subject to replay review. The NCAA ruling mandates ejections for contact made with the crown of the helmet or to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent.
An example of such a penalty came on Monday night as Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster delivered a helmet-to-helmet blow to Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who was deemed a defenseless player on the play. Burfict was carted off and placed in the concussion protocol, Smith-Schuster received a one-game suspension for the hit.
Bengals safety George Iloka was initially suspended one game for a hit on Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the same game, but the penalty was reduced to a suspension on appeal.
In an effort to improve player safety, the league has tried to crack down on devastating hits. Some of the illegal hits include helmet-to-helmet hits, spearing and blind-side blocks.
Vincent said the enforcement of such penalties and concurrent suspensions have started to limit the number of dangerous hits. But the addition of a targeting penalty would take the enforcement to another level.
“I think it’s something that we have to consider,” Vincent said. “We’ve seen it work to a degree. It’s clean. That play is a reviewable play at the collegiate level. We think there’s been some positives talking to some of the conferences and the officials and some of the student athletes. It is a deterrent and it’s something that we will consider. It is on our agenda – one of our agenda items that we will discuss with eh coaches and our competition committee.”