NFL upholds suspension of Titans safety on appeal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans safety Michael Griffin lost his appeal of a one-game suspension as a repeat offender of the league's rules prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players.

The safety says the NFL couldn't tell him what he should have done to avoid this situation. Appeals officer Matt Birk upheld the suspension Tuesday after Griffin appealed the punishment that will keep him out of Sunday's game at Indianapolis.

"I asked them what should I have done differently, and he told me there's no clear black and white answer," Griffin said Tuesday night on his weekly radio show on 560AM/95.9 FM WNSR Sports Radio. Griffin was flagged for unnecessary roughness in the second quarter of a 23-19 win Sunday for a hit on Oakland tight end Mychal Rivera. He went low, hitting Rivera as the tight end went to the ground after attempting a catch. It was Griffin's second violation this season and fourth since 2011.

The safety said Tuesday night that video clearly shows him running down the 15-yard line with Rivera catching the ball at the 20 and falling after his second step. Griffin said he went to his right knee before they collided, and he also pointed to photos showing Rivera's chin strap wasn't buckled; that might have caused the tight end's helmet to pop off.

"They tell me to go low," Griffin said. "Now when the receiver goes low, I don't know where I'm supposed to do now. Just let him catch the ball?" The suspension will cost Griffin $205,882.35 of his $3.5 million base pay this season, and he is prohibited from any football activities until Monday.

Griffin was fined $21,000 for hitting Jets receiver Stephen Hill high while blocking after an interception Sept. 29. The NFL also fined Griffin $21,000 last season for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Minnesota receiver Michael Jenkins last season, and the safety was fined $7,500 for a late hit in the head area with his helmet in a game at Carolina in November 2011.

The timing isn't good for the Titans (5-6) who currently sit in the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot after only their second win in the past seven games. They trail Indianapolis by two games in the AFC South going into Sunday's game.

Coach Mike Munchak said Tuesday night on his weekly radio show on 104.5 The Zone that the Titans thought Griffin would win his appeal because the safety did a lot of what the NFL is asking defensive backs to do.

"He did adjust his height, his target, all those things that he's asked to do we thought he did on that play," Munchak said. "That's why we felt confident that once they saw it in slow motion and took a good look at it and realized there was no intent there by any means to hit him. He was pulling off rather than going forward."

Instead, the Titans have to play without Griffin who likely will be replaced by veteran George Wilson, who started Nov. 3 when Griffin was sidelined by an injured quadriceps muscle. This will be only the second game Griffin, a two-time Pro Bowl safety, has missed since being a first-round draft pick out of Texas in 2007. He has started 99 of his 106 games played in his career.

Rivera, a rookie out of the University of Tennessee, had his helmet knocked off in the collision and did not return to the game. But he had no symptoms Monday and has been cleared by doctors to play this week. Rivera said Monday that Griffin texted him an apology after the game.

"I read that he's possibly going to play Thursday night," Griffin said of Rivera. "That's really all that matters that nobody was hurt in the situation and it's done. Now it's all about the team."

AP NFL website:

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