Bernard Pollard on NFL fines: 'They're always taking money for bogus stuff'

The Baltimore Sun

Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard is known for his hard-hitting nature on the football field, and for being blunt spoken when it comes to the NFL rulebook.

Pollard was highly critical of the NFL today for fining defensive players, including Ravens free safety Ed Reed $50,000, for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Reed's one-game suspension was overturned, which would have initially cost him $423,529 for an entire game check, by NFL arbitrator Ted Cottrell.

"They took away the suspension, but they took away $50,000 from him for something that was not intentional," Pollard said. "He's not a headhunter, that's not what Ed is. As players we ask where's the money going? They're always taking money from players for bogus stuff."

Pollard also discussed the difficulties of reacting to an offensive player who ducks his head and causes the defensive player to be on a course to collide with his helmet.

"We are football players," Pollard said. "We are taught to react. Don't call it defense if we can't defend something. If they're reacting and ducking their heads, you can't blame us for that. It needs to be a fine line.

"If an offensive player is ducking, we can't help that. We have a split second to make the tackle. We already used our split second .We got to go. We are a missile. We can't redirect. If they're ducking their head and doing other things you can't blame us for that."

Pollard said he thinks NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has far too much power to punish players under the collective bargaining agreement.

"You can't do anything," Pollard said. "The contracts are set. It's set, signed and delivered. He knows and understands that that he controls it. He has more power than is needed. I understand it might be a tough position for him to be in at times, but he signed up for it. He knew the potential problems he could face.

"Us as defensive players, we need to stand up because we're at a disadvantage from the get-go. First of all, they're going forward and they're going backwards. I don't want to make an excuse, but it's getting tough as defensive players any time we play this game and think. That's when all kind of bad things are going to happen."

Pollard suggested that unintentional hits to the head, which would obviously be hard to judge, shouldn't draw fines or penalties, adding that the CBA doesn't provide enough protection for players from NFL punishment.

"Wewouldn't be talking about the system if it worked," he said. "Obviously, the system isn't working. You have to be careful what you agree to. I'm pretty sure things we're looked at and tried to go over it as deep as they could. When it's all said and done, it's not working. We need to iron some things out."

And Pollard said there's a clear double standard between offensive and defensive players and how they're treated in the NFL rule book.

"You can tell me an offensive player can stiff-arm a defensive player, grab his facemask and throw him to the ground and you all are perfectly okay with that," Pollard said. "If we countered that to try to tackle him because he has our head jarred back, then it's an $8,000 fine for us. That's bull crap."

Pollard said he doesn't blame the referees for enforcing the rulebook.

"The refs do as they're told and ordered to do things," Pollard said. "They have to abide by those rules. They're not making the rules. It's the guys who have coached and played in this league and have hit people helmet to helmet. All of a sudden, you want to stand firm and you know what the truth is. We've got a split second as defensive players to make a tackle. We are taught to react. We signed up for this, but they have to switch up the rules and define it.

"It's no clear-cut way. They want to say, 'We'll just take your money and fine you because we said we can.' They're hiding behind a piece of paper. I stand behind what I say. If they disagree that's fine. We can disagree I'll still play this game the way I was taught to play it and I'm going to hit guys and do it the
safe way, but when we're reacting and the offensive player is putting his head down, you can't fine us for that."

As for having Reed back, Pollard said: "You don't win those appeals often, but he's able to suit up and play. We're excited about that."

Pollard's arm tackle attempt on Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich's 31-yard touchdown scramble occurred in the first quarter of a 13-10 win Sunday night where the strong safety thought that Leftwich was going to run out of bounds.

Next time a quarterback does that, Pollard indicated he would "kill him."

"I thought he was going out bounds because he turned that way and went upfield," Pollard said. "My angle was already toward the sideline just to run when he turned it up field all of a sudden everybody else slowed down. I'm not throwing anybody under the bus. We laughed about it because we got the win. Now, if a quarterback is going to the sideline and I have a chance I swear to you I'm going to kill him. 

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