(Gene J. Puskar / AP)

The NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed one game for repeated hits to opponents’ heads, a decision that Reed and the NFL Players Association are appealing today.

The move will result in a $423,529 fine (one game check) for Reid, whose appeal will be heard by Ted Cottrell, a former player jointly chosen by the league and the NFLPA. Reed’s exact infraction? A third-strike, helmet-to-helmet hit on Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders that drew a flag Sunday night. In September, Reed was fined $21,000 after he was penalized for unnecessary roughness on a play involving the New England Patriots’ Deion Branch, deemed a defenseless receiver. In December 2010, Reed was fined $10,000 and flagged for roughing the quarterback with a hit on Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.

In the face of criticism from players around the country, the league sought to clarify just why Reed is being so severely punished.

“We want him to hit below the head and neck area,” Ray Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice-president of football operations, said on “Mike and Mike in the Morning.” “We’d like to see him use his shoulder, we’d like to see him wrap up in a more traditional technique. But we absolutely do not want to see head-to-head, shoulder, forearm to [the] head or neck area — no real attempt to wrap and just going missile-like up high. We cannot have those in the game any longer.”

Reed has had no comment on the suspension, but plenty of others in the NFL have spoken up, including his coach.

“They were all inadvertent [hits],” John Harbaugh said. “None of those were with intent to injure or harm in any way. When you look at the hits, that’s pretty obvious. We all know Ed. Ed respects the game. He respects his fellow players. We stand behind him in that respect, and as a team and as an organization.”

Steelers safety Ryan Clark thought the suspension was harsh, tweeting: “Tough on Ed getting suspended. I can’t say that I agree w that. It was a penalty but I don’t believe he was intentionally trying to harm E.”

Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said:  “I think for us as players, it’s getting to the point where this system just isn’t working.”

There is plenty of precedent for Reed’s suspension. Last season, Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh were suspended for an accumulation of hits.

“Well, Ed Reed unfortunately is a repeat offender, and we put the burdens on the defender to alter his target in those situations where a guy is defenseless,” Anderson said. “Here’s the bottom line for us: Hits to the head and neck area potentially are life-altering as well as career-altering. We believe that we have enough to show us that, so illegal hits to the head and neck area are our biggest concern and we are absolutely intent on getting those out of the game.”

The league has moved away from using fines as punishment, although a fine of over $400,000 should get any player’s attention.

“[Fines] are not effective, and particularly when we have a repeat offender, and Ed, unfortunately, is a repeat offender,” Anderson said. “So that it doesn’t have to be a blow-up hit, particularly with a repeat offender if it’s in the head and neck area, it’s going to be severely evaluated and disciplined. We do not have a choice, given the environment, given what we know, to give the benefit of the doubt — change is hard, change is difficult.”

Follow @CindyBoren on Twitter and on Facebook.


Suh suspended

Harrison suspended