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Danny Trevathan’s dirty hit on Davante Adams is a reminder the NFL has to do more for player safety

The league is trying to get stricter about dangerous hits like this one. It can start by embracing the NCAA’s targeting rule.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK / SB Nation Illustration

Was Danny Trevathan’s hit on Davante Adams dirty, or as the NFL would describe it “egregious” or "catastrophic?” Without a doubt. The question now is whether the league will enforce the rule change it agreed to this spring, handing out a suspension for such hits.

With several of his Bears teammates already trying to drag the Packers receiver to the ground in the third quarter, Trevathan swooped in, lowered his helmet and hit Adams right in the head.

Adams went motionless and had to be carted off the field and later taken to a hospital.

The Packers and beat writers followed up on his health soon after.

Adams remained in the hospital overnight.

He was able to go home Friday afternoon. Mike McCarthy confirmed that Adams is in the concussion protocol, and he said Adams is “rambunctious and ready to move forward.”

The ref fumbled his call on the play

He gave the Bears a 15-yard penalty, but the official did not eject Trevathan. The rule passed by the NFL this year calls for an automatic ejection and gives the league the authority to suspend the player after the first offense.

After the game, referee John Hussey, the official on the play, said he didn’t see enough of the hit to make the call for an ejection.

Adams’ teammates did see the hit and reacted.

"It's one of the worst feelings you have when you see a guy motionless on the field," Jordy Nelson said after the game. "That one got to me — that's when you really start thinking about this game."

They weren’t happy that Trevathan was celebrating the play either.

"What we thought was f---ed up was that he was celebrating that play. You get your ass kicked, you took a cheap shot and you celebrate when a guy goes down. That's what really pissed us off," tight end Martellus Bennett said.

Trevathan tried to defend the hit, blaming the usual litany of factors.

"I regret the level I hit him at. But you got to understand, I had momentum, and I was just trying to make a play. ... Nothing intentional. It happens in this game.

"I'm not a dirty player, so I don't do dirty hits."

When asked about the possibility of a suspension, he added: "I don't think it should be a suspension, but my main concern is that he's OK [...] You never want to see that, but this game is physical, and it happens. Hopefully, they can see my half of it."

John Fox came to Trevathan’s defense.

"Danny Trevathan's not a dirty player. He's not out to hurt anybody,” Fox said Friday.

The league is reviewing the play to evaluate a possible suspension, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Make these kind of hits reviewable

For college football fans, the hit will immediately call to mind the NCAA targeting rule. The NFL’s version of it, however, is far less strict.

College football’s rule covers more than just helmet-to-helmet hits and expands the definition of who is considered a defenseless player. The hits in question are reviewed, and when the foul is called during a game, the team incurs a 15-yard penalty and the player is automatically ejected. If it happens in the second half of a game, the player misses the first half of the next game as well.

Trevathan will almost certainly get a suspension for the hit, meaning he’ll lose a game check for it. He should have been ejected as well, but because these plays are not reviewable, it’s entirely up the officials on the field and what they see on the play.

The NFL also instituted a centralized replay system this season, meaning calls on anything subject to review are made by the operations team at the league’s headquarters in New York. It’s intended to help speed up the process of review as well as provide more consistency in the calls.

The college targeting rule isn’t without controversy, the automatic ejections in particular. There’s been some debate about whether or not the NFL should embrace a similar rule. They should.

The issue of automatic ejections could come under the scrutiny of the collective bargaining agreement, but there’s one aspect of the college rule that the NFL could embrace with a recommendation from the competition committee followed by a simple vote of its owners: making those hits reviewable.

Had Trevathan’s hit on Adams been subject to review, there’s no doubt that he would have been ejected. As it is, he’ll most likely get a suspension, which is good. But if the league wants to keep ramping up its efforts at improving player safety, giving officials the chance to review “egregious” hits like this one would help.