On Sunday night, Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson repeated history by smashing Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin with a helmet-to-helmet hit that reminded everyone of a similar shot he dropped on Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson in 2010.
Robinson was fined $40,000 by the NFL on Monday for violation of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 (a) (2) of the NFL's official playing rules (you probably know it as the "defenseless receiver rule").
"It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture," the rule reads.
He was also alerted by NFL VP of Football Operations Merton Hanks that any future violations of player safety rules would result in a suspension.
"Future offenses will result in an escalation of fines up to and including suspension," Hanks wrote to Robinson in a letter. Roger Goodell was informed of the decision, and said "we felt this was the appropriate discipline."
The $40,000 is the minimum fine available to repeat offenders -- Robinson classifies, per the NFL, because of his hit on Jackson in 2010. At that time, Robinson was fined $50,000, but that fine was later reduced to $25,000.
"Robinson hit was violation because Maclin was defenseless by rule-had 'not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner,'" NFL VP of Communications Greg Aiello tweeted Monday.
Our own Pete Prisco, who was on the scene for the Falcons-Eagles tilt -- notes that the "Falcons didn't feel it was cheap." Atlanta head coach Mike Smith said following Sunday night's game that he believed the hit was legal and "that's the way we teach it."
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"My opinion didn't change," Smith reiterated Monday.
If Robinson does appeal, his case will be heard by ex-NFL coaches Art Shell and Ted Cottrell and must be heard by the second Tuesday.
I wrote this morning that Robinson should be suspended by the NFL, and I still feel that way. He flagrantly went head-hunting on Maclin, and both players are lucky that the Eagles wideout didn't sustain a serious injury.
"Player safety is a priority and we will not relent on it," NFL VP of Football Operations Ray Anderson said over the summer. "Let me make it very clear, particularly in regard to repeat offenders, that egregious acts will be subject to suspension. We will not feel the need to hesitate in this regard."
Had the hit on Maclin resulted in the wideout being carted off the field (a la Austin Collie), would Robinson have been suspended? My guess -- which is, admittedly, a morbid hypothetical -- is that Robinson wouldn't be suiting up for the Falcons next game.
And that's a scary thought because it means the league remains reactive -- rather than proactive -- when it comes to player safety.
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