Posted November 20, 2013

Ahmad Brooks fined $15,750 for hit on Drew Brees; Ray Lewis vows to pay half

New Orleans Saints, NFC South, NFC West, San Francisco 49ers
You'd have to freeze-frame Ahmad Brooks' hit on Drew Brees to see it as a legitimate penalty.

You’d have to freeze-frame Ahmad Brooks’ hit on Drew Brees to see it as a legitimate penalty. (Dave Martin/AP)

We may have finally reached the line of demarcation where the NFL’s desire for quarterback safety has passed the league’s need for on-field logic.

In Sunday’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks was flagged for a personal foul late in the fourth quarter after sacking Saints quarterback Drew Brees and forcing a fumble. The ball was recovered by San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis, but the turnover was negated by the penalty. The 49ers were up 20-17 at the time, and the penalty gave the Saints a fresh set of downs and moved the ball from the San Francisco 45-yard line (where the 49ers would have had possession) to the San Francisco 30. Five plays later, Saints kicker Garrett Hartley booted a 42-yard field goal to tie the game, and the Saints pulled out a win on their next possession when Hartley kicked a 31-yarder with three seconds left on the clock.

After the game, Brooks was not amused. We’re assuming Brooks was even less amused when he got a notice from the league on Wednesday that he was fined $15,750 from the hit.

“I didn’t hit him with my hand or my helmet,” he said. “I basically bear-hugged him. That’s just how football is played. I think this s— is bull—-. Football, the way they call stuff these days, it’s watered down. It ain’t real no more.”

On Monday, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh put it as succinctly as possible.

“I think the thoughts that everybody has with their own individual eyes,” the coach said, when asked his thoughts on the Brooks hit after he’d had a chance to review it. “Do you need my opinion on it? Our interpretation was, when we grade a player, if he’s got a penalty we give him a minus, but we did not assign a minus on that play. That’s our interpretation … I empathize with him. I thought he made a great play. And, it didn’t get the result.”

On Tuesday, NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino appeared on the NFL Network to explain the league’s point of view.

“You can’t make forcible contact to the head or the neck area, even if the contact starts below the neck and rises up,” Blandino said. “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. That’s why the flag was thrown for unnecessary roughness.”

And that’s also why NFL defenders are so completely frustrated by the league’s current rules regarding quarterbacks in the pocket. It’s clear upon review of the play that Brooks hit Brees along the shoulder and collarbone area — this was not an attempt to hit the head or neck in any way, shape, or form. As Brees is hit, he goes down, and Brooks’ arm subsequently goes up. Blandino made the case that the quarterback is a defenseless player in the act of passing, and that even if the contact starts below the head and neck area, it’s a flag if the contact continues there.

Brooks and other NFL defenders wonder just how they’re supposed to play the game anymore, and they certainly have a valid point — especially now that the league has heaped additional justification on the questionable penalty.

Brees was asked about the penalty on Tuesday, and even he had trouble justifying it as an intentional act.

“I don’t think what Ahmad Brooks did was intentional at all,” Brees said. “I think he’s a heck of a football player and a clean football player. A hard-nosed, clean football player. But you look at the result of that … and again in real-time … you can slow it down all you want and watch it and say, ‘Look where the [arm is].’ But I can tell you how I felt when I got hit. It felt like I got my head ripped off. And I get up and I’ve got a mouth full of blood. So there was no doubt in my mind that, ‘Hey, it’s gonna be a penalty.’”

Yes, but Brees may be confusing cause and effect there, just as the NFL has. Brooks’ arm sliding up to Brees’ face seems from every angle to be the inevitable result of geometry and gravity. And while it’s very clear that officials have been directed to err on the side of the offensive player at all times (especially when that offensive player is a quarterback), the whipsaw decision to penalize defenders for what can only be classified as incidental contact at the end of a play seems to be an overreaction — especially when defensive players don’t have the advantage of replay on these types of judgment calls.

On Monday, future Hall of Fame linebacker and current ESPN analyst Ray Lewis set the league on blast regarding the penalty (H/T to For the Win’s Chris Chase for the transcript).

“This is the most embarrassing call in the National Football League since the tuck rule and Tom Brady. I’m serious. I’ve just never seen this type of insult to defenders. When you do your job, when you make the perfect play — if he takes the same hit — and hits a quarterback like Peyton Manning who’s 6-foot-4, 6-5, he hits him in his chest area. Drew Brees is 6-foot or shorter. When you look at the hit, Ahmad Brooks took the hit and hit him exactly where he was supposed to hit him. Drew Brees’ neck slid DOWN to that man’s arm. You cannot — you cannot — first of all, for that to be a flag is embarrassing. Let me tell you the second embarrassing thing. The second part that’s embarrassing about this is for Drew Brees to say, ‘I got hit so hard I knew it had to be a flag.’ THIS IS THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE. I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS. When you get hit like that from the blind side, it’s supposed to hurt!

“But I’ll tell you this, if they fine this kid, if they go on record and they fine this kid, Ahmad Brooks, I’m gonna do something personally. I’m gonna pay half. Half. If they fine this kid, Trent, I’m gonna pay half of this kid’s fine, because of one reason — because of one reason — defenders have to be respected as men before anything else. [...] And that man laid a clean hit and that cost the San Francisco 49ers a complete football game yesterday and could have cost them in the playoffs.”

Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Lewis is ready to make good on his promise.

Is it great that the NFL is taking a stronger stance on player safety? Of course it is. But the league must also understand that no matter how much you try to legislate the violence out of the game, it will still exist. Creating a slanted field in which defensive players are penalized in theory before the whistle blows makes about as much sense as the NFL’s antiquated stances on player safety before this new awareness.

120 comments
MickHayes
MickHayes

Did everybody see the slo-mo of this hit?  Brees' neck got so extended it reminded me of a turtle trying to look backwards.   I haven't seen that unnatural extension since Jim Carey in "The Mask".

MickHayes
MickHayes

Ray Lewis is a tool.  Giving this jerk a microphone was a bad idea.

chatham
chatham

 The NFL has taken intimidation out of the game. No more are the days when receivers crossing over the middle looked like a steak on a platter to any linebacker. Gone are the days when a free run at the quarterback meant punishing hits and a sincere apology from the offensive line. Defensive players have had their edge taken. They don't stand a chance. The quarterback can't be hit above the chest or below the knees. As this hit by Ahmad Brooks shows, its really the knees to the belly because hits to the chest are near the neck which is near the head and therefore, illegal. This means that a defensive player has to beat often two lineman, get to the quarterback before he releases the ball to his short hitch route and hit him perfectly in a foot and a half range. Nearly impossible. There is now more fear. Offensive players know they can do anything, and if they get hit hard enough, they get 15 yards in a penalty. I understand why Ray Lewis is paying half his fine. Ray Lewis worked on intimidation. Every player in the league knew if he hit you, you were going down. With the NFL taking away his game, he has a right to fight for his legacy and the future of football

MarkTele
MarkTele

Did I just see a Saints defensive player make an almost identical hit on Matt Ryan, except he actually hit Ryan upside the head. Now this should be a penalty... and there's no flag. Right in front of the ref. Apparently Ryan isn't an "elite" QB? or do the Saints get preferential treatment now after getting the shaft last year?, or do the refs just outright suck? Whatever it is -I'm turnin' this crap off!

ki.nazir72
ki.nazir72

Change the rules to two hand touch on the QB, you can rush as hard and fast as you want.  Let them even shove or push the QB as hard as they like, even knocking to the ground with the shove or push.  QB is touched play is over immediately stopped right there.  It seems like anything short of that will be a plenty, the NFL gets to protect their most priced possession and it suits the new NFL viewers.

mackeson71
mackeson71

Hey Doug, have you even though to look at the 2013 NFL Rule Book? Specifically RULE 12, SECTION 2, ARTICLE 7 Part B Number 1.....

(b) Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is: 

     (1) Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact of the defender’s helmet or facemask is lower than the passer’s neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him;

(a) Players in a defenseless posture are: 

       (1) A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass; 



MosesZD
MosesZD

Thing is, Brooks did NOT have to go high with his arm.   He chose to go high.  And while he didn't 'intentionally' clothesline Brees, in the end his arm was right around Brees'  neck.    

Yet we keep seeing this picture.  The one that makes him look 'innocent.'  

 Sorry.  As a 49er fan its a bitter pill to swallow.  But the call was right and Brooks was stupid.   Especially as this rule was gone over in DETAIL during the preseason.  That you hit around the head and neck of a QB, even if you didn't do it on purpose, you're going to get a 15-yard penalty.


Jeff63
Jeff63

The NFL is getting damn close to jumping the shark ...

sixrings09
sixrings09

Question - Are we seeing the accumulation of rules, combined with the increased speed of the NFL game leading to Referees who are unable to accurately call the game?


sixrings09
sixrings09

Funny  how this works.  Romo gets a textbook horse collar committed against him at the end of a tight Denver/Dallas matchup.  No call.

Double standard time.

Rondawg65
Rondawg65

The NFL has NOW officially entered into the fat, white jump suit wearing, bushy side burn, Las Vegas show portion of its career. Pretty soon is will have a heart attack on the toilet and we all will remember fondly what the NFL once was. The King is dead, long live the King.....

Pat11
Pat11

Remember when the 49er fans wanted Clay Matthews suspended for hit on Kap just a few games ago. What do expect from a region that keeps sending Palosi to Washington year after year. Instead of talking about ruining a game, how about they are ruining a country.

upb
upb

It was such an obvious penalty, I'm still not even sure why anyone is arguing about it. The evidence is incontrovertible. Every defensive player is taught to tackle low.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

I don't know how anybody can watch Brees be clothes-lined and flung to the ground like that in the video above and think that it's something that was necessary or 'good for the game'. Get your heads out of your arses, people. Additionally, the game didn't even turn on the play, they only tied it on the fortunes of that call. Defensive players are a bunch of crybabies. Watch the replays during any game and you'll see them get away with all sorts of illegal stuff. The game is brutal enough. Put any one of you little armchair wimps out on the field for 5 seconds and you'll be crying about taking any contact at all. Get a grip and stop your whining. QBs should be protected - the health of the game depends on their health. Unless you're all 90 years old and long for 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust on every play. 

elcid
elcid

This call was total bs. It was a completely clean hit. The only question is - incompetence or corruption?

reader4si
reader4si

The saints now cry babies for the QB hit. It looks like a bounty pay back hit. Knock both saints qb and sly hc out of the game for good so they can taste their own medicine. 5.9 qb can't take so many hits for so long. So if any opposing team when play the saints just blitz the hell out of them, soon or later they will hit a jack pot to knock saint's qb out of the game.

radioactivez0r
radioactivez0r

This is the first article I've seen on SI that supports Brooks in this scenario.  So, good on ya.

Also, there are 2 stories on this page alone using the phrase "put on blast", which I had to look up.  Way to class it up, SI.

BillyG
BillyG

As a fan of the Saints AND of Brees AND Univ of Oregon, my opinion is that Brees should have taken a page from Oregon QB Mariota who when hit hard out of bounds by a UCLA player recently said, according to UCLA PLAYER, Anthony Barr, he heard Mariota tell refs on Saturday not to call a late hit on Jordan Zumwalt, and to "let them play,” “Earned him respect.” The refs should not have called that foul on Brooks at all, and once the flag came out, Brees should have pulled a "Mariota"...sure, that would have cost  NO the game (rightfully), but long term, Brees would have been revered as the "real deal", and not some flopper looking for the refs to bail them out when they got beat...not that he really flopped, but once the flag was thrown, he should have stepped up to the refs and demanded they pick up the flag.  How much better would sports and the world be if people did that instead of looking for the cheap bailout? Sometimes people lose when they win.  This was a perfect example of that. I pledge $10 to the Red Cross in the name of Ahmad Brooks

Salinto
Salinto

Quote Blandino:

 “You can’t make forcible contact to the head , the head area, the helmet area, the area around the ears or sideburns, the eyebrows or unibrow, whichever the case maybe. The nose are is right off. Eyes too. Better not ever do that. Also  the neck area, even if the contact starts below the neck and rises up in a timely fashion or untimely fashion. Whether the defender runs, walks crawls, levitates by supernatural means into the QB and hits him, illegally, a flag will be thrown 22% of the time".

Girl_knows_FB
Girl_knows_FB

Ironically, the Saint's, are the exact team that was getting paid for hard and dirty hits just over a year ago. Now the players, refs and fans of the newly found "Halos" are calling this hit dirty? It was a perfectly clean hit, man up for the millions you get paid or go get a job that doesn't have risk. 

Beto
Beto

Very simple here, soon we are going to be watching QBs playing catch with WRs no defense on the field, yay very entertaining.

Jeff_Scott
Jeff_Scott

So really what an NFL team needs to do is get a 3 foot tall QB and let him take a sack every time for a 15 yard penalty.

Jeff_Scott
Jeff_Scott

Need to wrap the NFL QB's into foam or something. Maybe something like Gumby or the Michelin Tire man.

danhopler
danhopler

I think it is gracious of Ray Lewis to offer to pay half to soften the sting of the penalty and project his view even though the price was greater than expected. I am sure Ray will honor his statement and pay up!!!

Matthew53
Matthew53

Stop the charade and call it flag football already. 


RedDan
RedDan

1 mississippi, 2 mississippi, 3 mississippi, 4 mississippi, 5 mississippi

TAGGED, you're down!

Fannish
Fannish

It's all about the money! The owners don't want their multimillion  dollar investments (quarterbacks, receivers, running backs) knocked out for weeks at a time. Also: concussions = lawsuits and more money out of the owners pockets. The lawyers are winning that one. It seems to me, nobody is forcing the players to play. They want the money, they take the risks. Thank goodness rugby and Australian Rules Football are still are unchanged. 

carjax1202
carjax1202

The No Fun League strikes again....Hey commish...are you reading the comments here and around the league today?  You are ruining football as we know it.  This isn't football anymore...it's watered down and weak.  If Ditka, Singletary, Joe Green and basically the whole steel curtain were playing today..they would be fined almost every other week.  Horrible, just horrible.  Kudos to you Ray Lewis.

DonTheGreen
DonTheGreen

Never really liked Ray Lewis, but I love him for this.  I read the story and thought: "Must have been a vicious hit".  But then, when seeing it, most of the contact was incidental.  So, if I'm a QB and put my head down so it gets hit, then does that mean I get 15 free yards for my headache?  I hate the way "elite" quarterbacks are protected.  No way the calls are fair.  

PHIFAN20
PHIFAN20

Yeah! Lets baby Drew Brees and his bounty team!

Bahia
Bahia

The fine was actually going to be $7875 but when they heard Ray say he was going to pay half, it went up to $15,750

Salinto
Salinto

By the year 2020 the NFL will be reduced to flag football. Every month the flags will change color in order to celebrate something of understanding and diversity. 

Sept- Pink flag, 

Oct. Mexican flag colors, 

Nov. Rainbow flag, 

Dec U.N. Flag

sldghammer
sldghammer

if every qb gets this call (the same treatment), no one could question the flag. but in the real world....only 3 or 4 are protected.

ardita
ardita

They should probably rule out kicking in soccer, too. 

Football is a rough game. Don't play it if you don't want to get hurt. Same with the lawsuits about concussions and head injuries. Duh. You play the game, you put yourself at risk. No one makes you play. If there is free will to choose, how can we blame a defender for defending or the NFL for an injury?

Nation of wimps are we...

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@mackeson71  

Seems pretty obvious to me.

I wonder how many of these shrill defenders of the tackle are being paid to do so? There's an awful lot of "appear out of nowhere just to comment on this one thing" posters here.

robertdwight13
robertdwight13

@MosesZD   No call on the hit on Ryan tonight.  So based on your argument the Saints should have gotten a penalty.


jordanN
jordanN

@Pat11 That comment is ridiculously stupid on so many levels. Keep your lame politics out of football.

zcrawford2
zcrawford2

@Joebuckster So you're saying it's okay that he was penalized over something he couldn't control? Brees' head slid down to Brooks' arm and somehow the defender is responsible for that? I really don't know why I'm taking the time to even reply to you, because after reading the rest of the comments here it's clear that you refuse to even listen to the other side of the story. Why don't you "get your head out of your arse".

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@elcid The only question, homer, is - are you an idiot or a moron? Or both??

TerryPoupart
TerryPoupart

@elcid The Saints turned the ball over 3 times and you still lost.  I'd call it incompetence.

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

@BillyG You're a complete moron. I feel momentarily dumber for having read your post.

Pat11
Pat11

@PatrickBatemanVP I hear ya, suspend the player 6 games and the coach for a year. Then the 49er fans might understand the situation a little better. Tell me one other team that got shafted as bad as the Saints before complaining about enforcing a rule that all the players and coaches are well aware of. To me the league is finally being consistant on these types of calls so any player thinking he can get away with it with all the cameras rolling must ride a short bus to the games.

Nick36
Nick36

Wonder how much the bounty is for making niner fans cry for four days straight and counting....

cardogpush
cardogpush

@Fannish the owners were sued for covering up the damages inflicted by concussions not the fact that concussions occurred . Pretty obvious now they have done a classic over correction leading to even bigger problems in the future . Eroding the fan base by over protecting qbs and undermining the texture and fabric of the game with obscure and ridiculous rules and the even more bizarrely inconsistent  interpretation of the dubious rules is  a recipe for disaster.

 fiddle away roger fiddle away

anon76
anon76

@ardita 

You clearly enjoy giving an opinion about things you are unfamiliar with.  The lawsuit was not about the fact that football leads to concussions, it was about the fact that the League ignored a preponderance of evidence that showed that football leads to permanent brain damage in a large number of players.  The league covered up this evidence, and even went so far as to put one of their guys in charge of a medical journal from where he proceeded to publish extremely questionable articles claiming that there was no link between football and these specific brain injuries.

If you don't understand how wrong that action was, or how deserving the League was of having to pay a huge chunk of money in legal action, then there is very little hope for you.