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The Blue & Gray Press | December 17, 2017

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In the endzone: high cost hits

By NATHAN MARKLE

On Wednesday, Nov. 20, the NFL fined San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks $15,750 for his hit on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game.nfl

A penalty was issued for a personal foul which negated Brooks’ sack and the critical fumble caused by it. The penalty allowed the Saints to continue with their drive, which ultimately concluded in a game tying field goal.

The Saints went on to squeak out a victory thanks in large part to the controversial penalty. Examination of the play, however, reveals that Brooks completed a perfectly legal hit—he did not lead with his helmet, he did not club the head with his fist and he tackled using mainly one arm.

There was no malicious intent in the blow either, but the flag was thrown due to the vicious appearance of the play. Unfortunately, this is football, and Brooks was not capable of bringing Brees down in any safer manner.

He was charging full speed and at an angle to the small quarterback while feeling the pressure of the offensive lineman who was trying to push him past Brees. Had it not been for these factors, Brooks could have squared up, set and wrapped up for a nicer looking tackle. Instead, he was left with no other recourse.

Video of the play shows Brooks reaching out and embracing Brees with one arm. The hit looks especially nasty because Brees was a resting object.

Meanwhile, Brooks appears to be an object of considerably higher mass crashing into Brees at an impressive speed. As basic physics dictates, the result was a devastating but completely legal hit.

Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino presented an explanation of the fine on the NFL Network stating, “You can’t make forcible contact to the head or the neck area, even if the contact starts below the neck and rises up. If there’s force to that contact, it’s a foul. Watch the initial contact, maybe around the shoulder, but it rides up into the neck area and brings the quarterback down with force.”

The problem with that statement is the NFL is essentially asking the impossible of defenders. Basically, Brooks is fined because of something completely out of his control.

Blandino is correct in that Brooks made first contact with Brees’ torso area, but after that he should not be held responsible for anything else.

This was not a case of helmet to helmet, or shoulder to helmet. There was no possible way in which Brooks could have prevented the play from looking so ostensibly vicious, unless he stopped, broke pace and lunged at Brees. If he did this, Brees would lost the football.

The truth of the matter is the penalty may cost San Francisco the game and maybe even more. The playoff standing was impacted, as both teams are in races for their divisions’ title and home field advantage in the playoffs.

The Saints must feel especially grateful for the call after witnessing the Panthers taking down the Patriots on Monday.

The NFL’s concerns over player safety are understandable. No one wants to see someone suffer a serious injury, and the league just paid out millions in the offseason lawsuit. But at some point the players must be allowed to play because there are inherent risks in suiting up in the NFL.

That is part of why such a select few of the population are even afforded the opportunity. When men that weigh over 200 pounds, or sometimes 300 pounds collide, it is going to look rough. You can prohibit launching with the crown of the helmet and hits of that nature, but there needs to be a limit.

Brooks is in some sense a victim here. He conducted a pure tackle with sound fundamentals. His arm may have eventually contacted Brees’ helmet, but that is how physics works.

Brooks cannot be held responsible for what occurs when the force of a big man meets the resting force of a little man. So, to the NFL, let the big boys hit so long as it is clean and reasonable. Otherwise, strap some flags on them, and bring this steadily approaching nightmare to an end.

 

 

 

Comments

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