Fines unlikely to faze Falcons safeties

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- On Thursday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent out a letter to fans emphasizing the league’s safety programs as concussions continue to be a hot topic. In the letter, he talked about rules changes made through the decades to increase the protection for defenseless players.

If the league is indeed dissecting hits closer these days, then Atlanta Falcons safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud felt the effects of that increased scrutiny this week.

Both Moore and DeCoud were fined $15,750 each for plays in last week’s 30-23 loss to the Patriots. Moore was fined for unnecessarily striking defenseless Patriots receiver Kenbrell Thompkins in the head with his forearm, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty. Moore seems likely to appeal after publicly denying he did anything wrong and explaining how he tried to make the hit "as legal as I could" based on his momentum.

DeCoud was fined for hitting Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson in the end zone. DeCoud was not penalized, as he lowered his shoulder and caused Dobson's head and neck to bend awkwardly. It appeared DeCoud was simply trying to make a play, not swarm in for a head shot. Dobson has been limited in practice this week and his status for the Patriots' game on Sunday is in question.

In terms of his fine, DeCoud never mentioned it this week. But he had plenty to say about the play involving Moore.

"That was a little bit questionable,’’ DeCoud said. "It didn’t seem to me like he really made contact with the guy's head or that there was any malicious intent in his attempt to hit him. But the front office, they saw it a different way.’’

No doubt the players will continue to differ with the league about legal and illegal hits. Some have gone as far as to say the NFL is turning into flag football. Whatever the case, the rules are the rules.

Moore might have been one of the first players to be docked pay as a result of a newly implemented rule. He was fined $21,000 after Week 1 against the Saints for initiating contact with the crown of his helmet. Moore was not penalized.

The fallout surrounding that rule mostly related to running backs lowering their heads to run over defenders. But the rule, of course, applies to defensive players as well.

Since Moore has been fined at least twice already this season, one has to wonder if he might tone down his hard-hitting style a tad to avoid penalties and fines. He leads the Falcons with 39 tackles.

"The kind of football player he is and the kind of competitor he is, you can’t just turn off the way you naturally play the game,’’ DeCoud said of Moore. "You can be more mindful of it, but it’s not going to happen overnight.’’