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INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL plans to discipline teams this season if their players reach or surpass a certain number of illegal hits, league vice president Adolpho Birch announced Tuesday.
The punishment is likely come in the form of a fine, but Birch said commissioner Roger Goodell has the ability to go further than that if he feels it is necessary. Stripping teams of draft picks could be one other option he considers.
Birch, who said the issue is related to club accountability, discussed the policy with the teams at the NFL owners meeting Tuesday as part of the competition committee report.
"The basic point of it would be to check the number or fines and the level of fines that are going out for infractions that relate specifically to various safety violations, whether it be spearing or late hits or things that we think particularly relate to head and helmet issues, and try to monitor those over the course of the year," Birch said. "As a club's total gets higher, to a certain threshold, then we will enforce some penalty and payback for those clubs to help encourage them to stay below that threshold."
Birch wouldn't offer a specific size of the fine a team that qualifies could expect, but he said it would be "significant and reasonable."
"It is going to be implemented," Birch said. "Some of the details we're still working out, but the commissioner was clear that it's something that he wants to put into place this year."
At least three teams would have qualified for the fine had it been enforced last season, according to Birch. Steelers president Art Rooney II said Tuesday his team would have been one of the clubs that qualified for the penalty in 2010. Rooney and Steelers players felt they were unfairly targeted by the league as it cracked down on hard hits last season. Steelers OLB James Harrison was fined $100,000 for hit infractions last season.
"I think that will have to wait and see how (the new policy) works, but I hope that it's used judiciously, let's put it that way," Rooney said Tuesday. "We had some discussion about it and I think there will be a little more discussion about it. If it's something that's needed and gets the point across in certain limited occasions, maybe it will work.
Rooney was asked if he felt the threat of additional discipline for illegal hits was necessary.
"I guess I would say I'm not sure it's needed at this point, but I'm not going to jump up and down and cry about it at this point," he said. "We'll see how it works."