Suspension with message

ON THE NFL

October 20, 2002|By Ken Murray

For all the uproar over Terrell Owens' showboating Monday night, the NFL addressed a far more serious matter last week. The one-game suspension of Denver Broncos safety Kenoy Kennedy for his vicious helmet-to-helmet hit on Miami Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers sent a stern message throughout the league.

Or should have.

The helmet is not to be used as a weapon, especially against a player deemed defenseless while attempting to catch or throw a pass. Chambers clearly was defenseless as he ran a deep slant pattern late in the second quarter and was being dragged down by cornerback Denard Walker when Kennedy launched himself head-first, projectile-like, into Chambers' face.

Kennedy's intent may not have been to give Chambers a concussion, as happened, or break his jaw, which might have happened. But it unquestionably was to make a spectacular, knockout hit on the NFL's big stage. It is what defensive players do, make big hits to separate a receiver or runner from the ball. In this case, it was shameless, even if Broncos coach Mike Shanahan spent the better part of his weekly news conference defending Kennedy.

According to Shanahan, an end zone tape shows that Walker had pulled Chambers' head down and into line with Kennedy's oncoming helmet. But if Walker already was pulling Chambers down, what was the need for Kennedy to finish off Miami's best receiver? And why did Kennedy need to lead with his helmet?

Shanahan even called Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt on Tuesday to make his case. Wannstedt called the hit "inexcusable" on Monday.

Kennedy, flagged on the play, already had been fined twice this season for similar hits. The NFL fined him $7,500 for a helmet-to-helmet hit against the St. Louis Rams' Isaac Bruce on Sept. 8 and $10,000 for the same violation against the San Diego Chargers' Fred McCrary on Oct. 6. The suspension will cost Kennedy $25,294.11 and perhaps something more onerous, said the only other player ever suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

"He's joined the club that you don't want to be a part of because you get blackballed all the way through now," said Mark Carrier, a former safety who was suspended twice for the same violation. "Once you've been targeted at that position, now anytime anything happens, the penalty becomes stiffer and stiffer."

Chambers is not expected to start today against Buffalo, but may play in limited situations. He has suffered from dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a bad headache, and undergone a battery of tests.

Considering all that, Kennedy got off easy.

No choir boy here

Owens, the San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl receiver, created a clamor in Monday night's win over Seattle when he whipped a Sharpie pen out of his sock after scoring the winning touchdown, signed the ball and handed it to his financial adviser in the stands. It was a silly but harmless display, not nearly as bad as when he scored a touchdown against Dallas two years ago, and then danced on the Cowboys' star at midfield.

Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith was amused this time because there was no taunting involved. "I thought it was funny," Smith said. "Give the man some style points."

Smith thinks the NFL should allow self-expression. "They want choir boys playing football," he said. "That ain't going to happen."

Oakland sees yellow

Paranoia or conspiracy? The Oakland Raiders had 14 penalties for 107 yards in their loss at St. Louis last week. They are second in the NFL with 458 penalty yards and wondering aloud about the officiating.

"The thing I've learned being here is that if a call is close, it's going against us, and that's not fair," said safety Rod Woodson, who spent the last four years with the Ravens. "I don't know if that's a referee's conscious decision. I hope it's not. But we have to play well to overcome that."

Passing fancy

The Philadelphia Eagles don't disdain the running game, but coach Andy Reid doesn't hide his preference for the pass. In the first half of their first five games, the Eagles have thrown the ball 144 times, compared to 45 runs. That's 76.2 percent passing.

Overall, they've thrown the ball 206 times so far. That's a 659-pass pace for the year.

Scheming the Raiders

The Rams shackled Oakland's prolific pass offense last week with a 4-1-6 defensive alignment that effectively made safety Adam Archuleta and cornerback Aeneas Williams outside linebackers. Tommy Polley (Dunbar) was the only true linebacker on the field much of the game.

The defense worked wonderfully, holding the Raiders to one touchdown and 367 total yards, much after the issue was decided. Defensive coordinator Lovie Smith designed the scheme to let Archuleta do what he does best -- run to the ball and make plays. A linebacker at Arizona State, Archuleta had 17 tackles, according to the coaches' tapes.

Audibles

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