NFL commissioner Roger Goodell remains the leading force in player safety with or without replacement officials.
Goodell provided a reminder this week by fining the Baltimore Ravens' Ramon Harewood for the block that sidelined St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Michael Brockers with a high-ankle sprain. The $8,000 fine, reported by Aaron Wilson and pointed out by Jim Thomas, represents 27.8 percent of Harewood's scheduled game check for Week 1, based on a projected $490,000 salary for the 17-week season.
The fine also signifies that the NFL thought officials -- replacement ones in this case -- should have penalized Harewood for the dangerous block delivered during both teams' final exhibition game. Brockers, the Rams' first-round pick and the centerpiece of their efforts to shore up a shaky run defense, could miss a month or so.
The NFL lists $7,875 as its minimum fine for low blocks and chop blocks. The minimum rises to $15,750 for repeat offenders. The NFL reserves the right to increase fines based on severity. Suspensions are also a possibility.
While the $8,000 represents a significant chunk of Harewood's weekly pay, it doesn't reflect the damage inflicted upon Brockers and the Rams. Injuries have left the Rams unusually thin at defensive tackle, undermining in the short term their efforts to stabilize the defense. High-ankle sprains can linger all season and beyond, as Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has discovered.