Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly appreciates that the NFL wants to eliminate targeting, but doesn't want players ejected for "things that just happen - bang-bang." Joseph Person jperson@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly appreciates that the NFL wants to eliminate targeting, but doesn't want players ejected for "things that just happen - bang-bang." Joseph Person jperson@charlotteobserver.com

Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers’ defenders say ejecting players for targeting would be a tough call

December 07, 2017 05:22 PM

While the NFL will consider implementing college football’s targeting rule after Monday’s Steelers-Bengals game included several head-on collisions, a pair of Panthers’ defensive leaders aren’t sure ejecting players is the way to proceed.

Public pressure for a stricter rule has been building since two players were suspended for one game for their head-first hits in the Monday night game. Pittsburgh wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster led with his head on a big block on linebacker Vontaze Burfict, while Cincinnati safety George Iloka was penalized for a hit on Antonio Brown.

Iloka’s suspension was overturned on appeal and replaced with a $36,000 fine.

Panthers safety Kurt Coleman said the difficulty in ejecting players for targeting, which is what happens in the college game, is determining intent.

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“Sometimes you can tell the intent of a player on film. Other times the only (person who knows the intent) is the person that actually did it himself. I don’t know, it’s not easy,” Coleman said.

“I understand they want to make it safer and safer. There’s times when I’ve put myself in a vulnerable position knowing that I can’t hit a guy a certain way. If they make the rule, I guess we all have to adapt to it.”

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly understands the NFL wanting to make the game safer, but doesn’t believe many players are head-hunting.

“I like to think for the most part guys don’t do that stuff on purpose. I think sometimes with the speed of the game it just happens,” Kuechly said. “I don’t want guys to get kicked out of games for stuff that just happens bang-bang.

“I think they’re always trying to look at ways to improve player safety and I think most guys appreciate that. But that targeting thing with the ejection, I think that’d be an interesting topic I’d be curious to see what people say about it moving forward.”