UPDATED 11/20/2013 9:35 a.m. PST
It’s apparently the hit heard ‘round the NFL.
The league has reviewing the controversial hit by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ 23-20 loss to the Saints at the Mercedes Superdome on Sunday. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter via Twitter, the league has fined Brooks $16,000:
NFL fined 49ers LB Ahmad Brooks $16,000 for hit on Saints QB Drew Brees. Ray Lewis has offered to pay half the fine.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 20, 2013
For those of you who might have been living in a cave, or perhaps in a van down by the river, for the last 72 hours, here’s the hit in super slow-motion:
Brooks was flagged for a personal foul on the play, which negated a sack and a fumble and allowed New Orleans to get into position for a game-tying field goal with 2:06 remaining in regulation. The Saints eventually won the game on another Garrett Hartley field goal as time expired.
The hit has evoked a ton of reaction in and around the league.
For his part, Brooks was not happy at all.
“I didn’t hit him with my hand or my helmet,” Brooks told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I basically bear-hugged him. That’s just how football is played. I think this s*** is bulls***. Football, the way they call stuff these days, it’s watered down. It ain’t real no more.”
The NFL insists the correct call was made.
“You can’t make forcible contact to the head or the neck area, even if the contact starts below the neck and rises up,” NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino told NFL Network’s “Around The League Live” on Tuesday. “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.”
The issue has been a hot-button topic across the league, with former NFL linebackers and current ESPN analysts Ray Lewis and Tedy Bruschi vowing on the air to help Brooks pay any fine he may be assessed (per ESPN.com).
Brooks’ agent told the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows that Brooks will appeal the fine:
Ahmad Brooks’ agent said Brooks will appeal the $16,000 fine. Now word yet on whether Ray Lewis will file an amicus curiae brief.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) November 20, 2013
For what it’s worth, I have seen still photos of the hit. I’ve seen video of the hit. I have yet to see a neck actually get hit.
The safe zone for tackling a quarterback appears to be a postage-stamp area in the middle of the uniform number. However, the contact should not be too vigorous or a foul may still be called. There are rules in place to prevent hitting quarterbacks too high and too low—a potential problem against the somewhat diminutive Brees.
Brees doesn’t question Brooks’ intent. But he did believe the flag was correct.
“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 going to be penalty.’”
49ers coach Jim Harbaugh thought the play was legal.
“When we grade a player, if he has a penalty, we give him a minus,” Harbaugh said via the team’s website. “We did not assign a minus on that play. Thought he made a great play, just didn’t get the result.”