Colts Approach Won't Change With New NFL Emphasis on Flagrant Hits, Caldwell Says
INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Caldwell said the Colts' coaching approach won't change.
With the NFL this week implementing major fines and possible suspensions on defensive players delivering dangerous and flagrant hits on offensive players, the league's altered approach in the area was a major topic of conversation around the NFL and around the Colts Wednesday.
Caldwell, in his second season as the Colts' head coach, said the team's fundamental approach won't be different moving forward.
The rules are the rules, Caldwell said.
And the Colts will keep following them.
"We won't coach any differently than we've been coaching," Caldwell said. "There are rules that are in place, and we abide by the rules. There have been several rules put in position to make certain there is player safety taken into consideration, and thus, that's what we teach.
"I think that's the end of story, probably."
The NFL on Tuesday levied major fines on three players – Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison ($75,000), New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather ($50,000) and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson ($50,000) – for dangerous and flagrant hits this past weekend.
The league also warned that starting this weekend, such incidents could result in suspension.
Players long have been fined or ejected for illegal hits, but with several of this past weekend's incidents resulting in concussions, the NFL readdressed the situation.
According to spokesman Greg Aiello, the league planned on Wednesday to send a memo outlining changes.
"Sometimes, it just happens where a guy makes contact with another guy's helmet," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "For that, to tell a player you can get fined $50,000 or you might get suspended for accidental contact, that's tough."
Said Colts cornerback DeShea Townsend, "I think it's gone a little too far, especially with suspensions of games and big fines – in a game where you know someone's going to get hit."
Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez said he has sustained two such hits in a four-year NFL career, and said while most defenders don't hit with malicious intent the NFL's recent attention to the issue likely will have an impact.
"I don't think these guys are bad guys," Gonzalez said. "I don't think they have fully malicious intents. It is football, and they're trying to send a message in a lot of ways. As much as their message has been sent, one also has been received. I think the league obviously isn't happy with the way that that wasrayed.
"I think you'll see some changes."
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said he sees the sense in the attention to the issue considering the intent is to protect otherwise unprotected receivers, tight ends and running backs. Quarterbacks, Manning said, are taught to throw in such a way not to expose receivers to such hits.
But Manning also said that's not always possible.
"It really seems to – and it makes a lot of sense – be protecting those unprotected receivers, tight ends, on those throws across the middle," Manning said. "All quarterbacks try to protect their guys, not throwing high and late across the middle. But sometimes it's going to happen. Sometimes, it's just a routine throw and you have tight ends, receivers and running backs defenseless. It just seems like we've had a bunch of them this year and serious injury possibilities.
"I think it goes in your mind when you're practicing, preparing and working on certain throws. I try to train myself, 'Hey, keep that ball on his body, keep it down, keep it low.' High throws are never a good thing in general. But it seemed like the throws the other day weren't high throws – just crossing routes where safeties and linebackers made a play.
"There were some pretty scary hits the other day."
Townsend said he agreed with Gonzalez that most NFL defenders aren't hitting with the idea to injure.
"You're just going out there to make a play," Townsend said. "You're always taught, 'Hit them now. Hit them early. Hit them as the game goes…It's kind of tough to have that mentality and then they want to fine you for having that mentality. If you look back on how this game was formed, it was formed on physical, tough players. You watch some of those old players, that's how their legacy was formed, by being physical.
"It's tough to be brought up in the game that way, then they want to define and suspend you afterward."
Bethea said the thing a defensive player can't do is think so much on the field that he's not reacting and playing naturally.
"I think it will affect some players," Bethea said. "As a defensive player, you don't want to be out on the field thinking. That's the worst thing you can do as a defensive player, being out there thinking. That's where you get hurt. You still have a job to do as a defensive player.
"Your job is to hit, tackle. If you don't do that, you'll be out of the league or somebody will come in and take your spot."
Said Caldwell, "I always think there's kind of a delicate balancing act. I thought things were going along well, but obviously this past weekend there were some pretty devastating ones. I didn't see them all, but I saw a couple and it warrants attention. There's no question about that."