Posted August 21, 2013

Jon Bostic’s fine for ‘clean hit’ further fuels debate over NFL’s tackling rules

Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, NFC North
Chicago Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic has been fined for a vicious hit.

Chicago Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic has been fined for a vicious hit. (Jim Dedmon/Icon SMI)

Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic will earn $405,000 in base salary this season. He now reportedly owes the NFL $21K.

As first reported by teammate Lance Briggs (and later confirmed by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport), Bostic was fined for a hit he laid on San Diego receiver Matt Willie in the Bears’ 33-28 preseason win in Week 2. The NFL’s decision to punish Bostic for that hit had Briggs up in arms:


The second play Briggs is referring to is one made by Houston safety D.J. Swearinger on Miami tight end Dustin Keller. As Keller attempted to catch a pass, Swearinger delivered a low shot, resulting in a torn ACL, MCL and PCL and a dislocated knee for Keller — injuries which will keep Keller out for the entire 2013 season and have put his career in jeopardy.

Swearinger defended his hit thusly:

“With the rules in this era you’ve got to hit low,” he said, per ESPN.com. “If I would have hit him high, I would have gotten a fine. So I think I made the smartest play. I’m sorry it happened and I pray he has a speedy recovery. … Right now it’s just instinct. You see somebody come across the middle, you gotta go low. You’re going to cost your team 15 yards. You’ve got to play within the rules.”

The fine doled out Bostic’s way certainly plays to Swearinger’s point. The hit by Bostic on Willie (which you can see here) was a vicious one, but Bostic appeared to tuck his head and hit Willie shoulder-to-shoulder, with some incidental contact to Willie’s helmet. In fact, the NFL called the hit “spectacular” when it first posted the video, only to reverse course later.

“Jonathan Bostic’s going to square you up, form-tackle you and make you remember the hit,” ESPN analyst and former NFL QB Trent Dilfer said following the play, which was ruled an incompletion.

That Bostic received a slap on the wrist, while Swearinger walks away unscathed despite ruining Keller’s season adds more fuel to the fire over the NFL’s rules on tackling. Swearinger’s argument — that the league’s emphasis on eliminating blows to the head could lead to more leg and knee injuries — is far from a new one. Whether or not Swearinger actually had those rules in mind when he flung himself at Keller’s knee is debatable, but the aftermath of both that incident and Bostic’s hit on Willie lends credence to his point.

Last week on Audibles, we took a look back at a 1978 SI cover story, which openly questioned if football had become too dangerous. The NFL has been much more proactive in attempting to prevent injuries in recent years, especially with relation to concussions, but this is further proof that it may be treading water. The game of football is a violent one, and for every issue addressed, another one seemingly arises.

A fine for what appeared to be a relatively clean hit will only add to the frustrations felt by players league-wide. And if any contact even in the general vicinity of an opponent’s head is to draw some form of punishment, those on the defensive side of the ball will have no choice but to aim low. The results of such an approach could be just as catastrophic, as Keller unfortunately found out.

46 comments
FrankJamesRocha
FrankJamesRocha

many situations in life have unwritten rules that are followed. rules of good sportsmanship. now its true that hitting someone in the knees and breaking them intentionally is not against the rules as long as you are not being paid for the hit but its very much frowned upon. if this was such an okay and good thing to do in the NFL than any and all decent players knees would be getting broken and snapped every game. for that matter just find the players that are better than you, break all their legs in a game and BOOM your better than them again. why even use a football just say go and it could be like a mass MMA bout. Its a violent game but its still a gentleman's game and those hits by swearingin and bostic were anything but keeping with that. yes high hits are bad now, but going for the knees is bad also. body tackling is for those that KNOW HOW TO TACKLE CORRECTLY. but I guess thats too much to ask for from these two clowns. I say kick them out of football for the same amount of time the individual(s) they injured illegally are out.

chibear6
chibear6

Exactly! DanF...I could not have said it any beter!

DanF
DanF

Can the NFL and the NCAA stop with all the continued pussification of American football?  If you do NOT want to assume the risks inherent with football, you should NOT participate!  It has reached the point that I just do NOT care about the NFL any more; I can still handing college football though.  Learn how to tackle?  ***k that!  Expect to get hit in football, otherwise get out and stay out!  Enough of this crybaby act already!  Shut up and play some football!

hardlydangerous
hardlydangerous

It’s time for the NFL to take serious action against leading with the helmet. These guys need to learn how to tackle. We hear about the good old days, “these guys should be wearing skirts” . . . Lambert, Ditka, Nitshki.  Hell those guys were animals, they were rough and tough, but they didn't tackle with their helmets.  The NFL’s response to this fine was that there was some helmet crown contact . . . and there was. What could he have done differently?  They answered, “tackle with his shoulder”.  To defensive players, learn how to tackle.

amolad
amolad

This is COMPLETE Bull$#!T. That was a clean shoulder hit.

This is what the NFL is going to do from now on: On many of these big hits like this--even if they are unflagged and, at first, praised on the NFL's own website like this one was--they're going to fine the hitter.

Why? They want to APPEAR to be proactive on head injuries and the subsequent dementia and health problems that arise from head contact. In the future they're want to be able to say "see, we were paying attention and on top of this" even though the player didn't break any rules. Bostic's head was down but he hit Willie with his shoulder, which is clearly what pro football is all about. 

The NFL has spent the past decade denying these problems even existed and has only caved recently from the immense public pressure and bad PR it generated. Even Congress got in on the act.

Yet, Swearinger can destroy Keller's knee--and entire season--and feel no repercussions.

Why? Not a shoulder-and-above hit. 

Expect more fines from Roger Goddell and company, at their discretion, for anything near the head. Expect more heads turned the other way for destroyed joints and other season-, and perhaps career-, ending injuries. As long as they're below the neck.

Maximum11
Maximum11

One of the points being lost here is that it was a catch and a fumble, but it was ruled an incomplete pass. Willie caught the ball and was moving when Bostic hit him and dislodged the ball. That's what the Bears defense does for a living. The ref's making a bad call left it open for the NFL to call it an illegal hit. An incomplete pass implies Bostic hit him before or as the ball was caught. If you ask me, there were two bad calls on that play.

JosephBagadoughnutz
JosephBagadoughnutz

next they'll have richard simmons training videos on proper tackling etiquette.

doublejtrain68
doublejtrain68

That is some bull----. That was a good, clean hit, and there was nothing dirty about it at all. There's a difference between cheap shots and hard tackles, and that was a good, hard tackle. There are going to be complaints and protests galore all season, in the pros and in college. Both the NFL and NCAA are going to have to rethink this rule. Seriously. 

RickKerner
RickKerner

I think offensive players should have to wear a horizontal stripe across the shoulder pads and around the thighs indicating the area in which a defensive player can make contact. Kind of like a baseball strikes zone.

Steveshoots
Steveshoots

Pittsburgh Steelers’ legendary linebacker, Jack Lambert, said “they should just put a skirt on the quarterback to distinguish him from real players.”  Thirty years later, it seems the skirts need to be handed out to receivers as well. -Bleacher Report 10-24-2010

And if you don't know Jack Lambert you don't know jack. With that being said any real football fan can tell when a player goes headhunting. This was not that type of hit. Good, clean and NFL caliber (for what that's worth now). It's why we love football. The NFL product has been a bastardized version of football since all of the restrictions have been placed on defenses to bring up scoring. The old passing records fell like dominoes once receivers became a protected species. These defensive players are so tentative about putting a lick on some one that missed tackles are going to go way up. Probably by design to "improve" the game. Or adversely, some defenders will try to defend a low cheap shot to a guys knees as the only legal way to tackle now. I'm looking at you Swearinger.

Karen10
Karen10

Why not play in bubble wrap for extra protection. The fines for tackling are getting ridiculous. Players are afraid to tackle at all these days. #ridiculous

atthebarbershop
atthebarbershop

don;t know how they run this without a link to the video

Fannish
Fannish

I can imagine how Butkus, or Singletary would fare in today's game. Is this the end of  strong defenses, and aggressive defensive play? I guess I will get a season pass to my local high school. I believe they are still allowed to play aggressively.

jbc123
jbc123

I love the sport,the injuries sometimes makes me cringe. That said, it is professional,the plays happen in an instant, and the league has tried to tone things down. This hit can't be a penalty or fine if the NFL is to continue to exist as the league we all enjoy so much. We've all seen hits like this, it's one of the reasons we watch, don't ruin the game. I think the lawsuit over the head injuries has the Comish and his henchmen running scared.

rifleman
rifleman

These are grown men who makes millions of dollars. They willing play the game, knowing they can be injured at any time- and that their career is on the line every play.


Unless a player clearly uses a cheap shot, late hit, head shot, etc, they should leave it alone. How is the defender to know when a receiver going to drop his head, resulting in a head-to-head hit? The defense can't win either way...

HDCHAZ
HDCHAZ

These aren't kids playing Pop Warner or Pee Wee Football. These are grown men who made a conscious decision to become professionals in one of the most violent professions known to man. Of course there are going to be injuries. 

This whole thing is BS. It's like saying professional boxers aren't allowed to hit the opponent in the head. Or probably more accurate, telling them they are allowed to hit to the head, but not too hard.

If you want a no contact sport then you can't call it tackle football. Bring out the flags and watch the NFL fade into obscurity.

dmorrisssey
dmorrisssey

It isn't officially football season until Goodell hands out a silly fine.

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

I don't know what else they wanted Bostic to do.  Heck, ESPN AND the NFL were pointing to that hit as the way to put a shot on a guy THE RIGHT WAY.  Watching the hit live, Bostic even looked to go out of his way to adjust his body so he didn't hurt the guy.  What else did they want?  For him to stop before hitting him and politely ask if it was already if he tackled him?  When even Trent Dilfer, a guy who harps on all these NFL policy changes as good things, says that a hit is clean and a good football play, there's nothing wrong with it.


At some point, even though I've agreed with some of the stuff he's done, everyone is going to jump on the "Goodell is incompetent" bandwagon.

riclively
riclively

This is why i am not as enthusiastic about watching flag football this year they might as well be wearing skirts.How can the commissioner off the league own a team that won the super bowl and not have a conflict of interest. 

HarshRealities
HarshRealities

Offensive players have since the beginning of football lowered their shoulders (and thus heads) to give defenders less of a target to hit. Watch video of Emmitt Smith. He always lowered his shoulders to fight off tackles. The lowering of the head and shoulders by offensive players makes it darn near impossible to tackle a ball runner without making head to head contact. Want to avoid head injuries. Make it illegal for all players to lower their head and shoulders. But at the same time say goodbye to football as we know it.

swidt
swidt

What's most absurd about this is that Bostic clearly made an effort to avoid hitting the receiver in the head and lead with his shoulder into the receiver's torso.  -If the NFL now has a rule that players can't satisfy even when they are TRYING to tackle properly, then they need to just take tackling out of the sport.  (If I'm a receiver desperately trying to make the team, I would consider sticking my head out in the direction of the tackler to make it harder for him to tackle me, at least until I made the team).

Richard--Ramirez
Richard--Ramirez

It is pretty lame but stay focused on the Packers Briggs. I'm predicting you guys sweep 'em this season.

CHARLIEWAYNE
CHARLIEWAYNE

It's coming folks watch and see NFFL "National Flag Football League" 

MarkBritten
MarkBritten

the thing is that knee injuries don't cause brain damage, so the NFL would "rather" people get their ACLs screwed up than get hit in the head.

Jungle_Kat
Jungle_Kat

@hardlydangerous Why don't you go comment on something (if anything) you know something about. Football is a violent sport, and I personally loved Lambert, Ditka, Butkus, Nitschke, Singletary, et al, they tackled with controlled violence without worrying about whether their damn helmet made contact or not! I can see a fine and penalty when it is just plain obvious the offending player was trying to intentionally hurt the ball carrier, but that is not the case here, or Clowney's hit, or a couple others that have been miscalled this preseason! If this keeps up, I just won't watch anymore. I'll also quit betting because this will change the outcomes of games that will be totally unpredictable or unforeseeable. Bet the bookies will just love that effect. Goddell is an idiot!

swidt
swidt

@hardlydangerous He did tackle with his shoulder.  He put his shoulder right into the receiver's chest.  The only way to prevent his helmet from the hitting the guy at all would have been to not have a head.  If he hadn't lowered his head, he would have been flagged for helmet to helmet contact.

Mike26
Mike26

@hardlydangerous Coming from the star of his youth and adult flag football leagues, that means a lot.

DanF
DanF

@misterdeltoid  The NFL has not become the NFFL yet?  Strap on the flag belt!

atthebarbershop
atthebarbershop

@BY First of all, you should get paid for doing what SI was supposed to do, provide a link to the frickin video. Secondly, I did see helmut to helmut contact, so I guess he did break the rules

OwG
OwG

@BosephHeyden 

Its a legal issue. With the possibility of costly lawsuits coming from retired players , the NFL has to make every step in saying they are trying to abolish head injuries from the game. Overall, the NFL (im hypothesizing) cares nothing for the safety of players unless the player is a media darling QB like Brees or Brady. 

rifleman
rifleman

@fordmike79 Yep. What will the NFL do when more and more of the elite receivers are out for the year with knee injuries? No one wants injuries but many of these moves are simply going to lead to injuries in other areas.

atthebarbershop
atthebarbershop

@Shane Mac @atthebarbershop I'm an old man, a busy person, didn't read it that closely.

Still think it needs to be in the first paragraph. "confirmed by the NFL's..." is not the link that anyone cares about and yet that's in the first paragraph!

BY
BY

@atthebarbershop @BY I thought he led with the shoulder and then there was a little helmet to helmet...unavoidable in my opinion..

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

@OwG That's what I'm getting, too.  ESPN just made mention of this in one of their segments and their response to why this was a fine-able hit and Swearinger's hit that ended a guy's season was not was they just sent a copy of the rules and highlighted a portion of it.  Not even so much as a statement, just a very robotic response to a situation that should have had more explanation.

 I hope Bostic appeals, because he is a rookie and, thanks to the new CBA and his being a second round pick, this costs him a full game's paycheck.  He'll wind up making himself a target for the league going on if he does appeal it, but his appealing it with it being a topic everyone seems to be on the player's side for all but guarantees him a win.

 That or one of his richer teammates could pay the fine for him.

OwG
OwG

@BosephHeyden @OwG 

My first reaction when i found he got fined for the hit is the NFL trying to make some kind of an example. Bostic (lets face it) is an expendable player that will excite little remorse from fans or the media for the penatly. You fine Patrick Willis for that hit, its a two week story.