The most concerning of these was Lions' safety John Wendling's hit on 49ers' quarterback Alex Smith. Smith was blatantly going into a slide, and instead of stopping, turning, or jumping, Wendling dove straight down at Smith's head. The result was a Wendling forearm to Smith's face and bloody mug for the San Francisco signal caller. The penalty was blatant to pretty much everyone watching the game, besides the referees who were officiating it.
The more players realize that they can get away with things like that, the more they'll test their limits. Dirty hits will become more and more common as long as replacement officials keep missing the calls. Don't blame the officials, however. I'm sure they're not out there keeping flags in their pockets because they want to see players get hurt. The replacement refs are doing the best they can. The NFL are the ones doing the disservice to their players by allowing this to go on.
With all of the fines and suspensions that Roger Goodell has handed out for illegal hits since taking over as commissioner, you'd think that he would be quick to get the replacement officials off the field and bring in guys who can control the game better. So why isn't he or the rest of the NFL trying to give the real referees what they want? Well, replacement officials don't affect Goodell or the NFL. No one's going to say, "I was going to watch Monday Night Football, but these replacement officials make the game uninteresting to me." The league will still remain as popular as ever, and maybe even more popular with all of the controversy and attention in the media. As long as the NFL continues to receive their colossal stream of revenue, they'll be in no rush to cave to the NFLRA's (the referees union) demands and increase the safety of their players.
It's really hypocrisy of Goodell to preach player safety and act like one of his main goals as commissioner is to keep football players safe across the country, then put his players at risk when the money has to come out of his pocket. It's really a shame that this has to happen, and hopefully the NFL and the NFLRA can get this figured out soon. Unfortunately, it may take a devastating injury with subsequent media mayhem for the NFL to bite on the NFLRA's demands.
Let's take a moment to remember what happened to Trent Green as the result of a very similar play to the Alex Smith/John Wendling encounter. This is the kind of injury that could become more common should the NFL not put referees out on the field that will keep the games clean and in-check. Green was unconscious after this play.