In the Wake of the News
4:28 PM CST, December 1, 2012
In pursuit of the NFL's toughest running back to tackle, Brian Urlacher reached for Adrian Peterson and hung on for dear life as any self-respecting linebacker would after his left hand latched onto the back of Peterson's shoulder pads.
As Peterson hesitated in front of the Vikings sideline last Sunday trying to cut into the open field, Urlacher never let go and literally single-handedly made the solo.
Not every linebacker would have read and reacted as instinctively as Urlacher did to make a play on a runner of Peterson's ilk. But no NFL player gets away with anything anymore remotely resembling a horse-collar tackle, a point of emphasis for officials in 2012.
The penalty cost the Bears 15 yards, which was understandable. Days later it also cost Urlacher $15,750, which wasn't.
"That's bull,'' Urlacher said when the flag was thrown.
What a fine mess the NFL created for itself this week.
After getting educated on the effects of Adderall and Viagra on NFL players, trying to decipher the league's sliding scale of discipline made me want to reach for the Excedrin.
And you thought the Bears offensive line was inconsistent.
Can somebody please explain how Urlacher received a fine for tackling Peterson barely lighter than the one Vikings defensive end Jared Allen received for injuring Bears guard Lance Louis? Urlacher made a tackle. Allen ended a season. According to the league, the difference is $5,750.
Can anybody understand the rationale used to limit the fine on reputed Lions martial-arts expert Ndamukong Suh to $30,000 after his Kung Suh kick to the crotch of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub? Suh might pay more annually in traffic tickets.
When did the NFC North go from one of the league's deepest divisions to being considered one of its dirtiest? The Packers didn't bring Ken Stills out of retirement for December just to keep up, did they?
The most egregious, incongruous ruling involved Allen, who recklessly launched himself at Louis' helmet during an interception return. In the collision Louis never saw coming, the Bears' most consistent offensive lineman tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
The cheap shot reminded Chicago of the way Coyotes' thug Raffi Torres left his feet to go after Blackhawks' forward Marian Hossa's head in the NHL playoffs. Neither hockey nor football has any place for such rogue nonsense. Yet officials never even penalized Allen and the more he has talked about the play, the bigger the target on his back became for Dec. 9.
"It was never my intention to hurt a guy,'' Allen told Vikings media. "I feel bad that he got hurt. I blocked the guy and sometimes bad things happen."
The NFL's flawed disciplinary logic only invites more bad things happening as players increasingly feel compelled to police situations the league cannot. A league that makes player safety a priority finds itself caught awkwardly between underestimating the damage of big incidents and overreacting to smaller ones. 'Tis the season for giving — but not at the expense of common sense.
A process that reduced Ravens safety Ed Reed's one-game suspension for headhunting to a $50,000 fine longs for consistency.
Jay Cutler deserves a $10,000 fine for flipping the ball to an opponent and Allen only gets docked $21,000 for viciously going after an opponent's head? Texans defensive end J.J. Watt's helmet-to-chest hit of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford provided a textbook example of how to finish a sack. Yet Watt drew the same fine as Urlacher — and neither play was dirty.
The same can't be said for Suh's or Allen's.
Allen's fine equaled the amount the league levied Bears safety Chris Conte last month after Conte's incidental helmet-to-helmet collision with Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell. Conte successfully appealed to reduce his fine by $10,000 but his mystified reaction summed up the thoughts of many throughout the league.
"I don't know the scale they go off of," Conte said of an NFL fine schedule specifying fines for 12 types of fouls. "How much contact means how much money? It kind of just shows the system is kind of off."
Debate centers on the intent of Allen and Suh but why should that matter most? The results of a player's act often weighs heavier than his intentions. If a driver with road rage rams into a car but never meant to injure the passenger, should that mitigate possible police charges?
Urlacher's intent in grabbing the back of Peterson's shoulder pads was to bring him down. Allen's intent in leaving his feet to block Louis seemed more sinister. Reasonable, objective people can conclude Allen's intent differed from Urlacher's. The ramifications of such decisions speak for themselves.
Everybody but the tone-deaf NFL can hear them.
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