NFL To Draw Hard Line

Despite being lost for the year, Willie Offord is going to play a subordinate role in how the NFL deals with incidents that arose last weekend.

Last week, the NFL fined injured Vikings safety Willie Offord $15,000 for what was deemed to be an intentional full-speed run-in with an official. While Offord is lost for the year and the Vikings were on bye last weekend, they are going to be an equal participant in what VU is being told is a strong stance by the NFL to put an abrupt stop to what is "a growing trend" that the league has been monitoring over the course of the 2005 season.

Offord's fine was in keeping with the increased awareness of officials being "put in jeopardy" on the field. In light of incidents this weekend -- in which Buccaneers CB Ronde Barber hit an official with a punch, two Ravens players were ejected for aggression toward referees and lesser incidents were cited in three other games -- notice is going to be served that this won't become a trend.

VU's being told that the league is formalizing a statement for all 32 NFL teams that will, when it is implemented, effectively be a no-tolerance policy toward any aggressive acts aimed at officials. In the past, such violations have been subject to fines. From here on through, suspensions are likely to be the penalty if deemed appropriate.

Expect to hear a statement of some kind from the league at some point in the next two days -- most likely in the form of increased fines or possible suspensions for at least two of the players involved in the events of last weekend. More likely is an internal across-the-board warning to teams that the next time an official is intimidated, the league will come down on that player with full force.

In instances like this, the powers at the top of the NFL have to make clear who is boss. Willie Offord's fine was an attempt to make a point. What may eventually come down as a result of last weekend's game will hammer that point home.

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