Update, 6:06 p.m.
The NFL has suspended Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather for two games, the league announced Monday.
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 will cost Meriweather $141,176.
Meriweather was not immediately available to comment after the suspension was announced and it was not clear if he will appeal. If the suspension stands, he will miss the Redskins’ game Sunday at Denver and a Nov. 3 home game against the San Diego Chargers.
The NFL said in its written announcement of the suspension that the disciplinary action was taken 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.”
The league’s written release also said that Meriweather “was penalized for unnecessary roughness in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against Chicago for a forcible helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver and again in the fourth quarter for a forcible hit to the head and neck area of a defenseless receiver.”
If Meriweather appeals, there will be an expedited hearing with a decision requested before Sunday’s game, according to the league.
Update, 7:15 p.m.
Meriweather’s appeal would be heard by former NFL player Matt Birk or former coach Ted Cottrell. They’re the appeals officers for matters of on-field discipline jointly appointed by the league and NFL Players Association.
The league has cracked down in recent seasons 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’d sued over concussion-related issues.
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.
The Redskins would be permitted to sign a player to replace Meriweather during his suspension, according to a league official.
Original post, 12:35 p.m.
It is not yet clear how long Meriweather’s suspension will be, according to the person, who called it “premature” to know the length of the suspension. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the league had not yet confirmed publicly its intention to suspend Meriweather.
Meriweather was penalized twice for illegal hits on Chicago Bears receivers Sunday during the Redskins’ triumph over the Bears at FedEx Field. He received 15-yard personal fouls for hits on 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.
It is not known if Meriweather will appeal his suspension. If it stands, he would miss the Redskins’ game Sunday at Denver.
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said after the win over the Bears he was hopeful that Meriweather would not be suspended. Meriweather said he believed he had changed the way he plays.
Update, 1:02 p.m.
“I feel like every hit that I took was a legit hit,” Meriweather said Sunday in the locker room at FedEx Field. “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 [league officials]. … You’ve just got to play. There ain’t nothing I can do about it. I just go out there and play.”
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.”
He also said he thought any possible disciplinary action by the league would be open to interpretation.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think that’s a rule based on who’s watching. One ref said it was good. One ref said it was bad. I think it’s gonna be just like that with the NFL. I think one person will look at it in slow motion and say, ‘He could have did this. He could have did that.’ One person will be like, ‘Look, man, going full speed you have no time to think about that and it’s a good hit.’ So I think it all depends on who’s watching.”
Meriweather said repeatedly Sunday he does not believe he is being unfairly targeted by the league.
Shanahan said Sunday: “It’s tough. It’s one of those things that you want people to be aggressive. But you want them to hit lower, mainly from the team standpoint. I’m not even talking about the possible injury, the possible fine and the things that go with it. We’ve got to eliminate those 15-yard penalties. I know Brandon is gonna work on it as hard as he can. …He wants to contribute. He’s just got to aim a little bit lower.”
Update, 4:12 p.m.
Shanahan said at his news conference Monday he hadn’t been informed by the league that Meriweather will be suspended. Shanahan expressed the view that Meriweather won’t 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’m not gonna go into detail on those right now. 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: “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.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.
● Mike Shanahan speaks to reporters later this afternoon.
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