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The NFL desperately needs to address its violence issue

The NFL needs to change its culture by adopting harsher disciplinary measures

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

So, Jarvis Landry might have ended a dude’s career last weekend.

During the Miami Dolphins’ 28-25 upset victory over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, Landry, a Pro Bowler in 2015, delivered a blindside, crackback hit to the upper torso of Bills defensive back Aaron Williams:

Landry was flagged for unnecessary roughness (but remained in the game) while Williams was taken to the hospital, where he remained for several hours with a neck injury before being cleared to travel with the team back to Buffalo.

On Thursday, Bills head coach Rex Ryan claimed that the team had major concerns about Williams’ long-term prognosis. Ryan’s sentiment was seemingly confirmed later Thursday evening, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Williams and his family plan to wait until the offseason to make a final decision on his playing career. Though the Bills have yet to elaborate on Williams’ playing status (he is currently “out indefinitely with a neck injury,” according to Ryan), it appears as if the 26-year-old defensive back’s season is over.

As Williams determines whether or not his body will ever recover to the point of an NFL return, the NFL slapped Landry with a laughable $24,000 fine. Williams, who is just two years into a four-year, $26 million contract, would hit free agency sometime around his 29th birthday. If Williams is indeed forced to retired, Landry will have caused him to lose untold millions in contract dollars.

To reiterate, Landry received a $24,000 fine. To add some additional and disturbing context, Steelers WR Antonio Brown received $20,000 in fines for wearing colorful shoes and dancing. Browns WR Josh Gordon forfeited an entire season’s worth of paychecks for hitting a blunt one, or five, too many times. Patriots QB Tom Brady received a four-game suspension (his team received a $500,000 fine and lost draft picks) for possibly-maybe-no-one-is-totally-sure letting some air out of a football.

Now, $24,000 isn’t exactly chump change to Landry (he’s making just shy of $1 million this season), but it certainly isn’t enough to cause him any real concern. Heck, Brown rationalized his aforementioned fine by saying $20,000-plus “ain’t nothing to a boss,” so it is pretty evident that some players don’t sweat forfeiting some coin.

Of course, this isn’t to say that Landry meant to injure Williams - he didn’t, he and looked visibly shaken after delivering the hit. Also working in Landry’s favor is the fact that he, unlike Vontaze Burfict, Aqib Talib or Ndamukong Suh, is not a notoriously dirty player. However, his hit on Williams was absolutely a cowardly, dirty maneuver, and his punishment should be harsher.

See, the NFL relies too heavily on precedent when making these decisions (and by NFL, I mean Roger Goodell, who oversees and authorizes all disciplinary actions). Because Landry isn’t a repeat offender and seems to be a generally alright guy, the NFL levied the standard “unnecessary roughness” fine, which is, in fact, in the ballpark of $24,000. By adopting such a cookie-cutter policy, though, the NFL has severely comprised its own ability to properly discipline particularly, uh, “controversial” issues. For this reason, it might be prudent to handle these issues on a case-by-case basis. Last season, the league handed Giants WR (and, somewhat ironically, Landry’s college teammate) Odell Beckham Jr. a one-game suspension for delivering a blindside hit to Redskins CB Josh Norman, who was then with the Carolina Panthers. Since then, the only physical object that has felt Beckham’s wrath is the Giants’ kicking net. Likewise, Steelers LB James Harrison was hit with a one-game ban after delivering a helmet-to-helmet hit to former Browns QB Colt McCoy in 2011. Harrison has been fined or punished precisely zero times since drawing that suspension.

Obviously, some players will never learn to adjust their playing styles (RE: Burfict, Suh), but it seems like applying hardcore discipline right off the bat (when necessary, of course) tends to set people straight. If Goodell wants to appoint himself as the supreme ruler of league-wide discipline, it makes literally no sense to utilize such standardized disciplinary measures. He might as well use his powers to judge this stuff as it comes across his desk. If your dirty tackle ends some dude’s season, I don’t care if you’re Vontaze Burfict or Rob Gronkowski (who is the most likable guy in the NFL, in my humble opinion), you should be punished harshly.

Again, this isn’t to say that Landry should be excluded from the league for good. I’m not proposing an eye-for-an-eye punishment system (though Buffalo hosts Miami in Week 16, which could get pretty chippy for Landry), but I don’t think it’s overly unreasonable to suggest a one-game suspension or a bigger fine. Or both, whatever works.

Remember, neither Harrison nor Burfict received their suspensions immediately. Harrison received at least six separate fines (totaling $150,000) for his on-field actions, while Burfict committed untold on-field atrocities. If the NFL proactively addresses its violence issue by setting players straight after their first overly-dirty action, maybe it can compromise fewer players’ careers in the process.