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Disciplinary Action

Kareem Jackson suspended again by the NFL, benched for 4 games

The hit that Jackson was suspended for occurred 3 plays after his previous suspension

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Kareem Jackson, the Broncos safety, was suspended for four games by the NFL on Monday for an illegal hit on Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs during their game on Sunday. Jackson will be eligible to return to the field after the Broncos Week 15 game against the Lions.

The hit occurred on the third scrimmage play of the game when Dobbs was running the ball on a third-and-one. While Dobbs was being tackled from behind by linebacker Baron Browning, Jackson hit Dobbs from the front with the top of his helmet just below Dobbs’ chin. Dobbs popped back up after the hit and no penalty was called at the time. However, the league reviews hits it considers to be potentially dangerous or illegal and NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan ruled Jackson’s hit was illegal under Rule 12-2-10(a), which states that “it is a foul if a player lowers his head and makes forcible c​​ontact with his helmet against an opponent.”​

This was Jackson’s first game back from a two-game suspension for a similar, illegal helmet hit. Jackson can appeal the suspension, and that appeal will be heard by one of the NFL-NFLPA hearing officers, Derrick Brooks or James Thrash. Jackson first suspension was originally 4 games, but reduced to 2 on appeal, which seems to indicate there is little chance of a reduction. If upheld, it would be the fourth longest suspension for an on-field incident in NFL history, and the second player to receive more than one multiple game suspension for a game infraction.

UPDATE: Brooks upheld the 4-game suspension.

Jackson’s suspension comes just one week after Denzel Perryman of the Houston Texans was suspended two games for a hit where he lowered his helmet and contacted Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase in the head. Combined with the Jackson suspensions, there have been 3 multiple-game suspension for on-field incidents this season.

One may wonder how the league can suspend a player for an action that did not draw a flag. These types of hits can be tricky for on-field officials to catch and flag because of the speed of some of these types of hits. There is a fine line between form tackles where a defender leads with their shoulder that also contains incidental helmet contact and these illegal hits where the defender clearly drops his head and uses it as the first point of contact with the offensive player.

These types of hits are dangerous for both the offensive and defensive players and the NFL is working hard to eliminate them from the game. Unfortunately for Jackson, this sort of hit seems to be commonplace for him, as his prior suspension was for the same type of illegal hit, which he repeated 3 plays into his return. While Jackson may be able to get away with this type of hit if it is low enough on the opponent’s body, if he continues to go high and lead with his head, he is in jeopardy of being suspended for an even more extensive suspension that could cross into next season.

Multiple-game suspensions of NFL players for game infractions

Player Team Season Suspension Reason
Vontaze Burfict OAK 2019 12 games* flagrant lowering helmet to initiate contact, numerous past infractions in a continuous span (ejected)
Myles Garrett CLE 2019 6 games* removing a player’s helmet and using it as a weapon (ejected)
Albert Haynesworth TEN 2005 5 games stepping on face of prone, helmetless player (ejected)
Kareem Jackson DEN 2023 4 games flagrant lowering helmet to initiate contact, 3rd play following 2-game suspension (no penalty)
Vontaze Burfict CIN 2017 3 games preseason blindside block/unnecessary roughness with prior suspendable infractions (no penalty)
Vontaze Burfict CIN 2015 3 games AFC WILD CARD multiple infractions of defenseless player hits (no penalty)
Denzel Perryman HOU 2023 2 games flagrant hit by lowering helmet, multiple offenses
Kareem Jackson DEN 2023 2 games flagrant defenseless receiver hit, second ejectable offense of season (ejected)
Javon Wims CHI 2020 2 games punching an opponent (ejected)
Maurkice Pouncey PIT 2019 2 games punching and kicking (ejected)
Brandon Meriweather WAS 2014 2 games preseason defenseless player hit, multiple prior illegal hits (prior suspension reduced 2 to 1 game on appeal)
Ndamukong Suh DET 2011 2 games stomped on prone player (ejected)
Charles Martin GB 1986 2 games slamming quarterback long after pass thrown (ejected)
Antonio Smith HOU 2013 1+ game§ preseason using a helmet as a weapon, but no contact (no penalty)

*Remainder of the season, including postseason (neither team made playoffs).
Served beginning Week 1.
Appeal reduction: Burfict (2017) from 5 games to 3, Jackson (first in 2023) 4 games to 2, Pouncey 3 games to 2.
§1 regular season game and 2 preseason games, but loss of 1 game check.
Sources: So You Think You Know Football?Football Zebras research

Chris currently resides in Michigan and has been a sports official for over 30 years. By day, he works in research in the automotive industry. By night, when he isn't watching his kids play sports, he officiates high school football, softball, and basketball while nerding out on all things related to officiating.

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