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NFL Disciplinary Action: How it Works

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I recently came across this release from the NFL, detailing the intense process by which all league players are disciplined when they find themselves in hot water, and thought it was something all football fans should know. Players are breaking the rules all the time and there's probably little to no understanding as to how they are disciplined and how the situation is resolved. So continue reading to get educated on how the NFL's disciplinary process works. I'm sure you'll learn something new. 

Official NFL Release

  • The process for a play to be reviewed for disciplinary action starts with the NFL Officiating Department reviewing every play of every game.
  • Any play that needs to be reviewed for possible discipline - whether penalized or not - is referred by Officiating to the NFL Football Operations Department.
  • Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson, a three-year football letterman at Stanford University (1973-1975), and Vice President of Football Operations Merton Hanks (right), a nine-year NFL veteran (1991-1999), make the initial decision to discipline a player for an on-field violation.
  • Discipline typically consists of a fine.
  • 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.
  • The 2011 schedule of fines, which was accepted by the NFLPA, serves as the basis for discipline.
  • This schedule is provided to players prior to each season in the Player Policies Manual.

Player Safety Rules and/or Flagrant Personal Foul


First Offense

Second 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 the Helmet (including illegal launching) $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

 

Fighting


First Offense

Second Offense

Fighting $25,000 $50,000
Unnecessarily Entering Fight Area (active involvement) $5,000 $10,000
Unnecessarily Entering Fight Area (no active involvement) $2,500 $7,500


Sportsmanship


First Offense

Second Offense

Excessive Profanity; other Unsportsmanlike Conduct (e.g., toward opponent(s), game personnel, fans, etc.) $10,000 $20,000
Taunting $7,500 $10,000
Football Into Stands $5,000 $10,000
  • 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.
  • 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 on appeal, are considered repeat offenders and subject to more severe discipline.
  • 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).
  • Once a decision to discipline has been reached, players are notified in writing via email, usually on Tuesday following a Sunday game.
  • 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. 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.
  • Appeals for on-field rules violations are heard in accordance with a 2010 agreement between the NFL and NFLPA.
  • The jointly appointed and compensated appeals officers are Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell (right) and former NFL player and coach Ted Cottrell.
  • Only after appeals are decided upon by Art Shell or Ted Cottrell (left) is money withheld from a player's paycheck.
  • As long as players file a timely appeal notice, they will not forfeit any money in advance of the appeal ruling.
  • 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 medical research through the Brian Piccolo Memorial Fund and the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Care Center.
  • This on-field fine money has netted an average of approximately $3 million per year over the last four years for distribution to those charitable organizations.