Helmet-to-helmet hits and the NFL's disciplinary response to them have been the hottest topics in the NFL this week.
On Tuesday, the league doled out $175,000 in fines among three players for violent hits that occurred in Week 6. On Wednesday, the league sent a memo to all 32 teams emphasizing that increased discipline, including ejections and suspensions, will be enforced on players who strike an opponent in the head or neck area.
Before those developments came to light, Texans players discussed the potential of the NFL cracking down on helmet-to-helmet hits after their practice on Tuesday morning. Here's a compilation of their quotes.
Linebacker Brian Cushing
"I think ever since we were young playing this game, we're taught to be violent. A lot of things need to be corrected if players' health and safety is such an issue. You look at some of the hits (last Sunday), and they were legal hits. They weren't even helmet-to-helmet. I think this is just the way the game is evolving. Guys are getting bigger, guys are getting stronger, faster, and hits are going to get more violent. Hopefully, it doesn't take away from the game of football, though. That's the one concern I have."
"I've seen guys who have just hit someone so hard that ref thinks it has to be a penalty. It's one of those things that as a defensive player, you go for the big hit, you look for the big hit, you look forward to it... It's a very wishy-washy situation."
"Here's another situation, too. You're going to get guys avoiding the head and then they're going to start going for the knees and then you're going to start seeing more ACL tears than ever before. Then you're going to have six-month injuries instead of 2-3-week concussions. I don't know what you're going to do. It's a violent game. It's a game that people love to watch because it is violent. There's big hits and there's big collisions and just a lot of activity. That's something for the NFL to decide, how they're going to correct it."
Strong safety Bernard Pollard
"I really don't care about that [the potential of increased enforcement]. My biggest thing is to get the guy on the ground, get the guy on the ground. I could care less what happens with that, but the NFL's going to do what they have to do. I think we can't worry about any of that. We have to worry about the Texans. We have to worry about ourselves."
"We have to do what we have to do to tell a team to stop throwing the ball over the middle. This game is built around offensive players. It really is. This game is built for offensive players. But I think me as a defensive player, I'm smart enough, I can adjust the way I hit and adjust the way I'm doing things, and I will."
Wide receiver Andre Johnson
"I always approached it like you might as well catch it because you're going to get hit, anyway. When you look at it, it's hard for both sides, I think, because when you see most receivers go up for a ball in the air, after they catch the ball, most of the times the first thing they do is tuck their head and try to ball up and protect themselves. You look at a defensive guy, you see a guy jumping at him, the first thing they do try to tuck their head, too, to try to protect themselves. I think that's what kind of leads to a lot of helmet-to-helmet hits. I don't know; it's tough because the sport is violent. I wouldn't say guys are trying to intentionally hurt you on purpose, but a lot of the times, guys are just out there playing, man. They just go and hit you. I don't really think they're thinking about the helmet-to helmet contact."
Tight end Owen Daniels
"It's good to protect the players, I guess. You don't want to take the aggression out of the game at all. I think some of it's been taken away. But I think when it's blatant and they're going for the head, then you've got to address those issues. I don't know if it'll affect our mindset going across the middle at all. You're still going to get hit, it's still probably going to hurt. (That won't change) just because they're trying to protect us."
"I think most guys aren't aiming for the head out there. They're probably just trying to dislodge the ball and trying to be fair and trying to play the game clean. Most of those guys are just playing hard and trying to make good hits. So I don't think it'll change much."
Wide receiver Jacoby Jones
"I don't have nothing against it [a potential new policy]. I don't want to take those licks. You can't really fault those guys because they're being football players, and you don't want to take anything away from them being physical. They're just playing football. You can't be mad at them."