Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NFL Takes Safeties Head on over Hits

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NFL Takes Safeties Head on over Hits

Article excerpt

Byline: Bart Hubbuch, Times-Union sports writer

Jaguars safeties Donovin Darius and Marlon McCree are the football equivalent of a hunter: As the last line of any defense, they make their living by dishing out hard hits.

Unfortunately for Darius and McCree, the hunters are starting to feel like the hunted in the NFL these days.

A string of recent high-profile hits, one of which produced a postgame seizure by Seattle Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson, is prompting a crackdown by the league office on what it considers overly violent hits -- many of them by safeties.

After suspending safety Kenoy Kennedy of Denver and fining safeties Darren Woodson of Dallas and Brian Dawkins of Philadelphia a combined $125,000 the past four weeks, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue warned all league head coaches last Friday that the problem is getting out of hand.

Needless to say, Tagliabue's warning isn't going over well with the players.

"It seems like we're being targeted as safeties," McCree said. "It's hard to tell a safety to run as fast as you can but don't hit the guy with your helmet. That's like putting candy in front of a kid and telling him not to take it."

McCree said he can understand the league's concern about illegal helmet-to-helmet hits such as the one Kennedy inflicted on Miami receiver Chris Chambers that gave Chambers a concussion and got Kennedy suspended for a game.

McCree also doesn't have to look far to see the nasty effects of a helmet-to-helmet hit, because Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell has sustained two concussions from them the past two seasons.

But if you ask McCree, the NFL is overreacting.

"We've got to watch how we hit them now," he said. "The next thing you know, they'll be telling us to help the receivers up after a hit and dust the dirt off them. As safeties, we already felt a step behind before all this stuff started. Now, the attention is only going to get worse."

McCree and other hard-hitting safeties get little sympathy from their coaches, who reportedly are on notice from Tagliabue that they could be fined or suspended for repeated illegal hits by their players. …

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