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STEP BY STEP: Review Process for On-Field Rules Violations


The Steelers handed out a NFL-distributed 19-page pamphlet to the media on Tuesday entitled: STEP BY STEP: Review Process for On-Field Rules Violations.

The pamphlet’s distribution ironically came mere days after Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney II met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell concerning recent violations and accompanying fines handed down to the Steelers.

Here’s a page-by-page look at the handout that’s full of big photos and large type:

Page 1: Cover Page with title

Page 2: The process for a play to be reviewed for disciplinary action starts with the NFL Officiating Department reviewing every play of every game.
*Photo of the NFL Officiating Command Center in New York.

Page 3: Any play that needs to be reviewed for possible discipline – whether penalized or not – is referred by the Officiating to the NFL Football Operations Department.
* Photo of a penalty flag on the field of play.

Page 4: Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson, a three-year football letterman at Stanford University (1973-75), and Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks, a nine-year veteran (1991-1999), make the initial decision to discipline a player for an on-field violation. Discipline typically consists of a fine.
* Photo of Merton Hanks while playing for the 49ers.

Page 5: Fine amounts are not random
As per the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, the fine schedule is provided to the NFLPA prior to training camp for its review.
* Photo of Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith shaking hands.

Page 6: The 2011 schedule of fines, which was accepted by the NFLPA, serves as the basis for the discipline. This schedule is provided to player prior to each season on the Player Policies Manual.
* Photos of the logos of both the NFL and NFLPA.

1st offense 2nd offense
Striking/kicking/kneeing $7,500 $15,000
Horse collar tackle $15,000 $30,000
Face Mask $7,500 $15,000
Leg Whip $15,000 $30,000
Late Hit $7,500 $15,000
Spearing $20,000 $40,000
Impermissible use of helmet $20,000 $40,000
Hit on defenseless player $20,000 $40,000
Blindside block $20,000 $40,000
Roughing the Passer $15,000 $30,000
Low Block $7,500 $15,000
Chop Block $7,500 $15,000

1st offense 2nd offense
Fighting $25,000 $50,000
Entering fight (active) $5,000 $10,000
Entering fight (no active) $2,500 $7,500

1st offense 2nd offense
Excessive profanity $10,000 $20,000
Taunting $7,500 $10,000
Football into stands $5,000 $10,000

Page 10: The fine amounts listed are minimums. Other forms of discipline, including higher fine amounts and suspension, may be imposed based upon the play in question.
* Photo of Seattle’s football stadium

Page 11: A player’s history is a factor in the level of discipline imposed. Players who were fined in 2009 or 2010, and whose fines were either partially or fully upheld, are considered repeat offenders and subject to more severe discipline.
* Photo of NFL logo.

Page 12: Discipline in each case is evaluated on its own facts and circumstances. This includes determining whether the infraction occurred during the normal course of a game or outside the normal course of a game (such as flagrant, unnecessary, avoidable or gratuitous violations).
* Photo of a pile of footballs.

Page 13: Once a decision to discipline has been reached, players are notified in writing via email, usually on Tuesday following a Sunday game.
* Photo of NFL logo.

Page 14: That correspondence includes the following information:
 The decision on what the discipline is
 The specific rule violation that occurred to trigger the discipline
 Instructions on how to appeal
 Instructions on how to view video of the play in question

Page 15: Players have three days from the time they are notified of the discipline to appeal. A hearing is then conducted within 10 days of receiving the notice of appeal.

Page 16: Appeals for on-field rules violations are heard in accordance with a 2010 agreements between the NFL and NFLPA. The jointly appointed and compensated appeals are officers are Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell and former player and coach Ted Cottrell.
* Photo of Art Shell while coaching the Raiders.

Page 17: Only after appeals are decided upon by Art Shell or Ted Cottrell is money withheld from a player’s paycheck. As long as players file a timely appeal notice, they will no forgeit any money in advance of the appeal ruling.
* Photo of Ted Cottrell while coaching the Chargers.

Page 18: Fine money from on-field player fines is donated through NFL Charities to programs for retired players via the NFL Player Care Foundation and the NFLPA’s Players Assistance Trust, as well as to support medial research through the Brian Piccolo Memorial Fund and the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Care Center. This on-field money has netted an average of $3 million per year over the last four years for the distribution to those charitable organizations.
* Photo of Cam Newton instructing kids how to play football.

Page 19: Full page NFL logo
— Mark Kaboly


Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as three Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa and XLV in Dallas. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug


  1. Jopa-n says:

    “other fine amounts can be imposed”

    “discipline in each case is (evaluated) on it’s own facts and circumstances.”

    If I was a union rep, and my client came to me and asked me why he was fined a certain amount outside or above others of like nature in circumstance, I would tell him the above sentences from the disciplinary part of the contract basicly gives the management the right to enhance the fines as they see fit- over and above the minimum from player to player.

    ‘Evaluation’ is such a broad and liberal term that managements love it. “We did not feel, in our evaluation that this person was guilty- over and above the minimum.”

    “In our evaluation we found that the player went beyond the minimum fine level due to A, B, C etc.”

    You can try to argue but its not your evaluation and the door is open to fine within a very broad spectrum from player to player. Bad for the players/employees. Great for management.

  2. Rob says:

    Points of interest:

    Page 5: Fine amounts are not random
    As per the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, the fine schedule is provided to the NFLPA prior to training camp for its review.

    Page 10: The fine amounts listed are minimums. Other forms of discipline, including higher fine amounts and suspension, may be imposed based upon the play in question.

    In other words, the “fine schedule” sets a minimum standard. Any amount above that is random. Glad we got that cleared up.

  3. Scott P says:

    Demaurice Smith should be fired immediately. Any first year law student could have, and should have shot about 50 holes through this “policy”. This is a freaking joke!!!

    I am proud to say that at least the Steelers were the only team who refused to accept this nonsense. By voting unanimously to reject the CBA based on the fine structure and appeals process, the Steelers proved that they are collectively the most intelligent, as well as the hardest hitting team in the league.

    Kudos to Kevin Colbert and the entire personnel team for acquiring players who are a cut above. Shame on Art Rooney ll for embracing this B.S.

  4. Jopa-n says:

    Just so you know Scott P from the post in the previous Mill blog, I’m not changing my online name because of something I had no control over. I was given the nickname after a family member annointed me with it to the liking of other family members upon it’s revelation years ago. I’m not changing to hide who I am like so many do that use names like eating potato chips. I’m Jopa-n. You don’t like it? You won’t be affended if I don’t wipe it away at your very whim, will you?

  5. Scott P says:

    I have never and will never suggest that anybody change their screen name, or anything else for that matter. It’s your name, not mine.

  6. Rick says:

    How did we get from NFL fine structures to Jopa-n?

    That freaking media mess on top of a nasty situation is totally out of control.

    And no I see why our Steelers rejected the NFL Fine Structure, it is biased, open ended and one sided.

    Point in fact (I don’t hate Ray Lewis, just his mouth, he is an excellent LB) was the hit Lewis put on Ward. The minimum fine! Come on – and on top a no penalty call in game.

    And people around the country wonder why we are so vocal in our complaints after games, especially when a handful or more of no calls basically determines the game.

  7. Dick says:

    I am surprised the NFLPA accepted the CBA with this garbage in it. What were they thinking? They’re supposedly representing the players. I haven’t seen the facts but expect the Steelers lead the league in disciplinary fines. Could this be connected to the fact that they were the only team to reject the CBA? If you are going to have something like this it is painfully obvious to me that in order to be fair and equitable all appeals should be adjudicated by a competent neutral party. No one connected to the league in any way should be involved. This would allay any self serving interests wherever they may be. Appeals in this system go to the people rendering the discipline and fines. What kind of justice is this? And, while i’m at it, I have been wondering about this: If a so called defenseless player curls up and ducks his head just prior to the impact of a helmet to helmet hit, how can a defensive player avoid that? Why is a situation like that construed as illegal and finable? We all saw it last year and appeal fell on deaf ears. The league has a long way to go when it comes to being equitable.

  8. Dick says:

    Oh, and one more question. When the league takes a player’s money and donates it to charity, then it becomes a tax deductible donation for the affected player,, right ? I would like to know the answer to that one. Any CPA’s out there?

  9. David says:

    I’ve said all along that this union is nothing more than icing on a cake. Look at how fast they decertified during the lockout only to be able to the player themselves sue thier own employers this union is just a cover up cause I don’t hear DeMarice Smith jumping when fines are levied, or when players are fined with no flag throw he is as much a home as Roger Goodell is in a box of pebble corn flakes. these two cons are good for each other just like fingers and an itch are. The NFL players could do themselves an enirmas favor and decertify anyway cause I have yet to see this union speak on any topic oh and you would think DeMarice would have been at the meeting with Tomkun, Rooney in finable hits, but again the duck was in the pond ……

  10. David says:

    When the league FINES a player it us marked as a five and not a charitable donation on thier end. The fine then becomes property of the NFL and is noted as a charity in thier book thus giving them the tax write off, with all thus on the table, I would live to see in writing line by line who reaps the benifits of these fines cause there are some offs out there that I question, if if some of this fine money becomes lobbyist money it isn’t so clear cut to me.

  11. David says:

    I hope roger and DeMarice aren’t putting thus fine money in thier back pocket.

  12. Dick says:

    Thanks David for the info on fines and charity. I had a hunch something wasn’t rright here. The league should clarify the fines/charity/tax situation ahd just who is benefitting from the tax deduction. A lot of money is involved here ahd we should know if anybody is benefitting. There very well could be a conflict of interest in the levying of the fines. A transparent audit might clear the situation up for everyone. I wonder if anyone has broached this subject before?

  13. David says:

    The 75,000.00 fine on Rex in my book should and rightfully go to the victim the NFL should not reap the rewards on that fine.

  14. Nellieh says:

    For sure this was not negotiated during the lockout and is above the promised discipline discussion after the agreement was signed. No labor leader would go for a deal like this. The NFLPA was snookered. The appeal process is a sham kangaroo court. Has anyone ever won an appeal? I think Harrison had a fine reduced, but that was last year.

  15. Dick says:

    I see a conflict of interest here if the league is levying fines based on their interpretation of rules which they can enforce as they see fit. If the total amount of fines in a given year amounts to 3 million dollars, and, even if the entire amount is donated to charity, tthat would amount to a sizeable income tax deduction if the league so exercises that tax deduction. This in turn could possibly induce the disciplinary enforcer to seek more fines. This is all speculation and the league could clear this up. The bottom line is the NFLPA, if they were doing their job, should be looking into this and assuring the affected players they are protecting their interest.

  16. David says:

    i see chop block as an illegal hit but yet it is said that baltimore uses this method as if it were taught in elementary, why aren’t there flags thrown on this and why doesn’t the commish fine this, last ive seen a flag doesn’t really have to be thrown for a fine to come out of any hit….

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