The suspension was imposed a day after Meriweather was penalized for two illegal hits during the Redskins’ victory over the Chicago Bears at FedEx Field. The suspension is without pay and would cost Meriweather $141,176 of his $1.2 million salary for the season.
Meriweather was not available to comment after the suspension was announced and it was not clear if he will appeal. If the suspension stands, he will miss games Sunday in Denver and a Nov. 3 home game against the San Diego Chargers.
The two-game suspension was the stiffest handed down by the NFL this season against a player for an illegal hit. It comes as part of a crackdown by the league on hits to the head of players deemed to be in defenseless positions, such as a quarterback delivering a pass or a wide receiver making a catch. The crackdown has come against the backdrop of the controversy over the sport’s handling of head injuries suffered by players.
The NFL reached a tentative $765 million settlement this past summer with former players who had sued the league over concussion-related issues.
The NFL said in its written announcement that it was suspending Meriweather for “repeat violations this season of NFL safety rules prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players, including two in Sunday’s Washington-Chicago Bears game.”
Meriweather received 15-yard personal fouls for hits Sunday on Bears wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Meriweather was fined $42,000 earlier this season for an illegal hit on Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy.
Meriweather appealed that fine.
“I feel like every hit that I took was a legit hit,” Meriweather said afer the game Sunday. “I wasn’t trying to be dirty. I wasn’t trying to hurt nobody. I didn’t launch with my head. I used my shoulder like they told me to do. Everything I did was a pointer from them [league officials]. . . . You’ve just got to play. There ain’t nothing I can do about it. I just go out there and play.”
If Meriweather appeals, there will be an expedited hearing with a decision requested before Sunday’s game, according to the league.
Meriweather has three days to appeal and any appeal would be heard by former NFL player Matt Birk or former coach Ted Cottrell. They are the appeals officers jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association for on-field disciplinary matters.
The Redskins would be permitted to sign a player to replace Meriweather during his suspension, according to a league official.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan expressed the view earlier Monday that Meriweather would not be suspended but also said: “My opinion really doesn’t matter here. It’s what the league thinks. And so we’re gonna wait for the due process and see what they say, and we’ll go from there.”
Shanahan declined to discuss Meriweather’s hits Sunday in detail, saying: “I’ve looked at them quite a bit. We’ve had conversations. I can’t go into detail on it. But I have talked to a few people and we’ll leave it at that.”
He also said at his news conference earlier Monday: “I think he knows exactly what he has to do. Sometimes, the intent, there’s no intent there. Sometimes you hit a guy a little bit higher than anticipated. Even on the last one, he came to the sideline and says, ‘Hey, one guy told me it was a good hit. The other official told me that he saw it differently.’ There’s a lot of different interpretations of it. At the end of the day, we’ll find out.”
Meriweather and other players have been fined heavily for hits deemed illegal.
Linebacker James Harrison, then with the Pittsburgh Steelers, served a one-game suspension in 2011 for an illegal hit. His appeal of the suspension was denied by Cottrell.
Ed Reed, then with the Baltimore Ravens, had a one-game suspension reduced to a $50,000 fine by Cottrell on appeal last season, and fellow safety Dashon Goldson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a one-game suspension reduced to a $100,000 fine by Birk on appeal earlier this season.
Other players, such as defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth of the Tennessee Titans and Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions, have been suspended multiple games for on-field incidents. But those suspensions were not under the illegal-hits guidelines.
Marshall was critical of Meriweather’s play.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Marshall said Sunday: “Guys like that really don’t understand that there is life after football. I respect the league trying to better our game and guys like that, maybe he needs to get suspended or taken out of the game completely.
“I understand. I get it. I was one of those guys. I played defense growing up. I was a head-hunter. Even sometimes on the offensive side, I played that way. But with rules in place, you’ve gotta respect it.”
“Guys like that just don’t understand. Those are the guys that are in trouble. They really don’t have anything to do after football because they think it is all about football. Guys like that, it’s tough.”
The Redskins face the prospect of playing the Broncos and their quarterback, Peyton Manning, with a depleted secondary. Safety Reed Doughty left the Chicago game after suffering a concussion on an onside kick.
He is subject to the league’s procedures for treating players who suffer concussions and must be cleared by an independent neurologist to practice and play.
Meriweather said Sunday he’d made an effort to change the way he plays.
“The last two, three weeks, I tried everything possible,” he said after the game. “I lowered my target. As y’all could see, I lowered my target. I stopped using my head. I’m using my shoulder. No matter what I do, honestly I feel like I’m gonna be in the wrong. If I hit you with my shoulder and I slide up, they’re gonna say it’s head to head. If I hit them too low, I think somebody just got flagged for hitting somebody too low. So I think it all depends on who’s watching. I don’t think we can be right.”