NFL notes: Higher price for illegal hit

The NFL imposed huge fines Tuesday on three players for dangerous and flagrant hits last weekend and warned that, starting with this week’s games; violent conduct will be cause for suspension.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison was docked $75,000 on Tuesday, while New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson will lose $50,000 each.

In the past, players were either fined or ejected for illegal hits. However, after the series of recent flagrant tackles, several of which resulted in concussions, the NFL ramped up the punishment.

Football operations chief Ray Anderson indicated the suspensions could start immediately – that is, involving play from last weekend’s games. However, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league wanted to give teams fair warning and would send a memo today, outlining the changes.

Harrison was punished for his hit on Mohamed Massaquoi. His hit on Joshua Cribbs did not figure in the fine, although it also caused a concussion; the league said Monday it was permissible.

Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, called the fine “staggering” and said it would be appealed. He emphasized that neither play drew a penalty.

The league noted Harrison is a repeat offender. He was fined $5,000 for unnecessary roughness in Pittsburgh’s win over Tennessee on Sept. 19.

Unions prepares for no health care

With negotiations still at a standstill, the NFL players union is going to start preparing for the possibility of having its health care cut in March.

During an appearance with Vikings fans, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said he was working to figure out a plan to ensure medical coverage for players and their families should owners lock them out.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said it’s one more reason to reach an agreement. He also pointed to the federal COBRA law that allows employees to continue their existing coverage without interruption at their own expense or the expense of their union.

Brett Favre spoke with an NFL security official in Eden Prairie, Minn., about text messages and lewd photos he allegedly sent to a New York Jets employee two years ago when he played for the team, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

With starter David Garrard and backup Trent Edwards both injured, Jacksonville re-signed veteran Todd Bouman.

Jacksonville also is planning to take a look at free-agent quarterback Patrick Ramsey, released by the New Orleans Saints in final roster cuts.

Around the league

Tennessee quarterback Vince Young is day to day after tests show only a mild sprained left knee and ankle, and coach Jeff Fisher said he could play against Philadelphia on Sunday even if he misses a couple of practices. … Bill Parcells has cleared out his office and no longer works at the Miami Dolphins’ team complex, but the team said he’ll continue as a consultant to general manager Jeff Ireland and coach Tony Sparano. … Former NFL star linebacker Junior Seau has been released from a San Diego hospital a day after plunging down a Carlsbad, Calif., seaside cliff in his SUV. … A person familiar with the situation says Browns defensive end Robaire Smith will be placed on injured reserve because of a back injury.

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