One often overlooked aspect of the league's efforts to put action behind the slew of lawsuits it is currently facing for disavowing the long-term effects of head injuries is laziness.
He was lazy. It would explain also why Sanders was so open when he caught the 20-yard pass from Byron Leftwich in the third quarter. He approached him high, took his eye off his target and slammed into him.
It was absolutely worthy of a penalty, but not even close to egregious enough to merit a permanent label.
A suspension? That depends fully on the mood of the league.
While the NFL is trying to hide now behind rhetoric suggesting there never was an agenda against players with multiple instances of hits outside of the rules (NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said,"We cannot tolerate repeated violations of rules, especially rules related to player safety," on Monday), leaving fans in their typical state of confusion as to what the punishment is. The only message being sent is "we know it when we see it."
Or, we know the player when we see the player.
He and Steelers linebacker James Harrison are the only two players to serve a suspension for hits during the whistles since the NFL's lawyers decided to enforce rules its officials didn't penalize starting in 2010. Harrison's suspension came during a Week 14 win over the Cleveland Browns when he hit quarterback Colt McCoy as he quickly changed from a runner to a passer - a distinction that made his hit go from legal to illegal just as quickly.
These situations really have nothing to do with themselves, except Reed is the only one to have his suspension overturned on appeal (he was fined $50,000 for the hit, though). Considering the same people who issued the suspension in the first place were the same ones to lift it just a day after it was given puts into light the credibility of the entire process, but that's nothing new. It's not as if Reed's hit became any more legal the following day.
The root problem here is the flippant nature of these fines, penalties, suspensions and rulings. If each case is unique, the only rule here is whatever NFL employees Merton Hanks, Ted Cottrell, Art Shell, Ray Anderson and Roger Goodell feel like it is at the time of the ruling.
The fact they lifted the suspension establishes precedent that repeat offenders (Reed has three of these incidents on his record since 2010. Mays had two of them this season, one of which drew half of the usual fine for an illegal hit) needn't worry any longer about that distinction.
Appearing on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning, Anderson said:
"[Fines] are not effective, and particularly when we have a repeat offender, and Ed, unfortunately, is a repeat offender, 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."
Yes, they're going to evaluate it so hard, Reed got $50,000 of his $472,000 game check taken away, as well as becoming the first player under the CMA culture of the NFL's office to have a suspension overturned for what appears to be no reason that could apply to any other player.
Even better, Anderson follows it up with:
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."
It seems like Anderson and his inconsistent legally-embattled league brethren have exactly that; a choice to give Reed the benefit of the doubt.