Justice came swift for the Panthers Dante Wesley for his hit on Clifton Smith of the Buccaneers that we described as being like a runaway locomotive. (He was ejected for the hit with 10 seconds remaining in the second quarter.) We expected an announcement either today or tomorrow, but the NFL wasted no time in handing down judgment. He will be suspended without pay for next week’s game. The announcement from the NFL:
Defensive back Dante Wesley of the Carolina Panthers has been suspended without pay for one game by NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson for a flagrant violation of player safety rules. Specifically, on a punt coverage play on Sunday, Wesley left his feet, launched himself and made shoulder and forearm contact with the neck and head area of Tampa Bay punt returner Clifton Smith, who had not caught or touched the ball and was in a defenseless posture.
The suspension will sideline Wesley for the Panthers’ game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, October 25.
In a letter to Wesley, Anderson wrote: “The playing rules (Rule 10, Section 1, Article 1) specifically provide that a member of the kicking team is prohibited from interfering with a receiver attempting to catch an airborne kick. The prohibited contact in this case went well beyond simply interfering with the receiver. Instead, by striking your defenseless opponent in the head and neck area, you committed an unnecessary and unnecessarily dangerous act that is specifically prohibited by the rules.”
Anderson added: “Your actions are of particular concern in light of the emphasis that our office has placed on developing and enforcing rules designed to protect players from injury, including head and neck injuries. The safety of our players is paramount to all of us in the NFL.”