Dustin Keller's season and perhaps his career ended on a hit right on his knee by Houston safety D.J. Swearinger. Offensive players everywhere were outraged.
Miami receiver Brian Hartline called the hit "crap." Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez went off on Swearinger during an interview with USA Today:
"That was ridiculous on his part. It should be a fineable offense. That's just not part of football – hitting a defenseless player in his knee, that's something we all dread as players. That's my nightmare,'' Gonzalez told USA Today. "Hit me in my head (instead).
"You never go at a guy's knee. Never."
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That hit wasn't fined. But a hit by Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic, which was hailed as a nice, hard hit against Chargers receiver Mike Willie drew a $21,000 fine. Bears coach Marc Trestman and linebacker Lance Briggs both publicly said they thought it was clean. Even Willie himself laughed it off and sounded surprised that there was any question the hit by Bostic on him was clean.
"Oh no, he gave me a lick," Willie said the day after the game, before the fine came down. "It was a clean hit, I think."
So why did the NFL fine Bostic about five percent of his base pay this season while Swearinger didn't get any reprimand at all? The NFL explained its decisions, not that the reasoning will appease everyone.
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino explained to the NFL Network that both decisions were based on how the defensive player delivered the blow, not where they delivered the blow.
Swearinger did not use the crown of his helmet.
"(A defenseless receiver) is protected in two ways: He's protected from hits to the head or neck area, and to hits to the body with the crown or forehead/hairline parts of the helmet," Blandino said. "Those rules do not prohibit low contact like you see in the hit here."
Blandino said it was an "unfortunate result," and the NFL's competition committee would review that play this offseason.
Bostic's hit looked fine because he didn't hit Willie in the head, but Bostic used the crown of his helmet on a defenseless receiver. That led to the fine.
"The Bostic hit is illegal because he used the crown of his helmet to deliver a forceable blow to the body of the receiver," Blandino said. "For this hit to be legal he has to get the helmet to the side and use the shoulder to deliver the blow, or hit the receiver with his head up. Those are the two techniques we're trying to get back in the game."
So the next time you're arguing if a hit was legal or not, look at how the defensive player delivered the hit, not just where he hits the offensive player. The league is looking at both.