Amid calls by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Bengals receiver Terrell Owens to let NFL players help decide fines for flagrant hits, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson shed light on the process of determining player fines on Wednesday.
Five players have been fined at least $50,000 for questionable hits. Polamalu -- whose teammate, James Harrison, has been fined a total of $100,000 under the league's new crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits -- reiterated his stance on NFL Network's Around the League on Tuesday.
"My comments regarding the commissioner was just saying there needs to be a more democratic process in the finings," Polamalu said Tuesday. "I think current players should be involved as well as former players as well as front office people, coaches as well.
"I think the more voices that are heard the better."
Anderson, who has become the public face behind the league's response to questionable hits, responded on NFL Network's Around the League.
"The notion of current players and coaches being involved presents a conflict of interest that the competition committee has not been favorable to," Anderson said. "We think we have a fair, objective process with former players like (former defensive back) Merton Hanks and folks who have been around football involved in looking at these plays and making determinations, so we're comfortable with the process, which by the way is done in conjunction with the players' association participation."
Anderson added that officials have been told to err on the side of safety, throwing flags on hits of a questionable nature. The league will then review the play and decide if further action is necessary.
While current players might not get a voice in levying penalties, several people with on-field experience have a role in the process.
That process with regard to a play being reviewed for potential disciplinary action starts with the NFL Officiating Department reviewing every play of every game.
Any play involving a violation that needs to be reviewed for possible discipline, whether flagged on the field or not, is referred to Anderson and his staff, which includes Hanks, a nine-year NFL veteran (1991-99). Hanks or Anderson make the initial determination for discipline for on-field violations.
Players have the right to appeal league discipline. The Collective Bargaining Agreement specifies that appeals of fines or suspensions of players for unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct are determined by the Commissioner’s designee. The decision on persons appointed as the Commissioner’s designee for on-field player discipline appeals is made in consultation with the NFL Players Association.
Those designated to review the plays that are appealed are former defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and former Raiders tackle and head coach Art Shell. The duo were jointly appointed by the players' association and the league.
Anderson also gave explanations for some of Week 9's questionable hits, saying that Packers safety Nick Collins was fined for his hit on Cowboys receiver Roy Williams because the league saw "helmet contact" on a defenseless receiver, which was a violation even though the initial contact did not hit Williams' helmet.
Eagles defensive back Kurt Coleman, whose hit left Colts receiver Austin Collie concussed and out of Sunday's game against the Bengals, was not fined, Anderson said, because Collie was propelled into Coleman by Eagles safety Quintin Mikell, and therefore was not responsible.