Goodell getting tough on illegal hits

Roger Goodell, the NFL’s law-and-order commissioner, is ordering his players to watch their conduct on the field as well as off it.

Goodell is mandating that all coaches and players do everything within their power to protect players from unnecessary injury — or harsh penalties will be imposed.

He even went so far as to instruct all team executives, coaches and general managers to read or distribute a memo from him to every player on their team Thursday. Once the memo has been fully absorbed, he asked teams to report back to NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson to let him know the message has been delivered.

The memo comes during a week in which Goodell suspended Buccaneers cornerback Elbert Mack one game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. While Mack is appealing the suspension, Goodell is appealing to all players to be more careful.

In the memo, emailed Thursday, Goodell wrote: “Player safety on the field is important to all of us in the NFL. Football is a tough game and we need to do everything possible to protect all players — offense, defense, and special teams — from unnecessary injury caused by illegal and dangerous hits. From this point forward, you should be clear on the following point: Any conduct that unnecessarily risks the safety of other players has no role in the game of football and will be disciplined at increased levels, including on a first offense. Playing by the rules shows respect for your fellow players. No one wants to see unnecessary injuries. Let’s have a safe and exciting 2008 season.”

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