Hard-hitting Tampa Bay safety Dashon Goldson has been suspended for one game for flagrant and repeat violations of NFL safety rules prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenceless players.
Goldson was penalized for unnecessary roughness in the second quarter of Sunday's game against New Orleans for making direct, helmet-to-helmet contact with a defenceless receiver, Darren Sproles.
The suspension was imposed Monday by NFL vice-president of football operations Merton Hanks. Goldson can't practice this week nor play in the Buccaneers' game on Sunday against New England.
He can return to football activities with the team next Monday.
The violation was Goldson's fifth for unnecessary roughness since 2011 and his second in the first two weeks of the 2013 season.
Goldson was fined $30,000 last week for striking a defenceless player, Jeff Cumberland, in the head and neck area against the New York Jets.
"You had an unobstructed path to your opponent," Hanks wrote in a letter to Goldson informing him of the suspension for the hit on Sproles.
"It is clear that you lowered your head and unnecessarily rammed the left side of your helmet into the left side of your opponent's head.
"You delivered a forceful blow with your helmet and made no attempt whatsoever to wrap up your opponent or make a conventional tackle on the play. This illegal contact clearly could have been avoided."
Goldson was not available for comment at the Bucs' training facility.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, Goldson has three days to appeal and request an expedited hearing and decision.
Appeals are heard and decided by either Matt Birk or Ted Cottrell, the officers jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association to oversee appeals of on-field player discipline.
Goldson was an All-Pro last season with San Francisco, helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl. He joined Tampa Bay as a free agent, signing a five-year, $41.25 million contract.
The suspension will cost him $264,705 US in salary.
The Bucs have committed a league-high 23 penalties for 220 yards in two games. They've been flagged for six personal fouls — five for helmet-to-helmet contact and the other for a late hit on Jets quarterback Geno Smith.
Before Goldson's suspension was announced, Coach Greg Schiano reiterated he wants his players to remain aggressive, but also play within the rules.
"It really doesn't matter whether you think it's a penalty. It's called, so it's a penalty," Schiano said in response to a question about whether he agreed with all of the calls.
"That's really the issue. If something's going to be called, we have to avoid it because it's hurting the football team," Schiano added.
"On the same token, I want our guys to play hard. I don't think anybody's intentionally trying to do that, so we just have to be more and more aware of that situation and make sure we avoid that as much as we can."
Schiano said during his weekly news conference that he had not heard anything about a possible suspension.
He said he was aware of Goldson's reputation as a tough hitter when the seventh-year pro signed with Tampa Bay, but that he did not have any concerns about his history of being penalized for unnecessary roughness.
"When we made the decision to bring Dashon here that was not a concern," Schiano said. "Was I aware that he was a big hitter, yes. And, it's not a concern now. It's a concern that he may get suspended, but Dashon ... when you look at the Jet hit, he's trying to do the right thing. He's got to lower his target point."
Schiano noted "sometimes the target point moves" while a defender is trying to make a tackle.
"That means you even have to go lower still," the coach said. "He certainly is trying. It's not one of those, 'Oh, I don't care.' He's very aware and trying."