That’s what the league did in Trevathan’s case, issuing a two-game suspension Saturday for Trevathan’s illegal hit on Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams. Trevathan, a linebacker for the Chicago Bears, reportedly will appeal.
That’s an appeal that Trevathan should lose, if player safety really is to mean anything in the league.
When the NFL’s competition committee issued a directive in the offseason to make flagrant hits a point of emphasis beginning this season, committee members said they were talking about the four or five most egregious illegal hits in a given season. The committee said it wanted to see those hits result in ejections by the officials or suspensions by the league, even for a first offense by the guilty player.
The committee wrote in its report that it “affirms that NFL Game Officials should maintain their current authority in the Playing Rules to eject a player for a flagrant hit to an opponent. The Committee also encourages the League office to suspend the offender, even for a first offense. Beginning with the 2017 season, flagrant fouls will be a point of emphasis, and for such fouls the player is subject to ejection and/or suspension for the first offense. Video examples of these flagrant hits will be provided prior to the season to further educate coaches and players.”
Trevathan’s hit qualifies as among the worst of the worst. Adams already was being tackled when Trevathan used the crown of his helmet and drove it into Adams’s helmet. Adams’s mouthpiece went flying. He was taken from the field on a stretcher, spent a night in a hospital and suffered a concussion. It could have been even worse than that.
The officials erred Thursday night by not ejecting Trevathan. The league needs to let that officiating crew know this was precisely the kind of hit that merits an immediate ouster. The competition committee and the owners have not taken the next step and allowed the use of instant replay to judge if such a hit should merit an ejection. But this play was obvious. The officials should have seen it without the aid of replay and banished Trevathan from the remainder of the game.
The league did get it right after the fact, at least, and moved quickly by announcing the suspension less than 48 hours after the game. The suspension is without pay and, if it stands at two games, would cost Trevathan $235,294 in lost salary. That is two-seventeenths of his 2017 salary of $2 million.
This isn’t the NFL of 30 years ago. It’s not even the NFL of 10 years ago. Too much is known now about the hazards of such hits. They cannot be allowed to be in the game.
Yes, things happen quickly on the field. Yes, it was a split-second decision by Trevathan. But players simply must change how they play. Defenders simply must lower their strike zones. That must become second nature to them on the field so that when a player must make a split-second decision like that, the resulting hit is nothing like what Trevathan did.
Trevathan does not have the long history that Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict does. Burfict was suspended for five games by the league following an illegal hit during the preseason. That was reduced to three games on appeal by James Thrash, one of the two appeals officers for on-field discipline jointly appointed and paid by the league and the players’ union. Derrick Brooks, another former player, is the other.
Trevathan’s two-game suspension should stand. His hit was egregious. Was it dirty? That’s difficult to say because the term seems to involve intent. No one but Trevathan knows what he intended. But his hit was reckless and it was dangerous, and it cannot be allowed to be part of today’s NFL.
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