Last week the NFL was all-too-eager to pat itself on the back after Week 7 games came and went without a single fine for late hits. The lesson, it seemed, was that the discussion and sanctions for all the illegal hits in Week 6 had worked and that players were being more safe in light of the new emphasis.
But on Wednesday, the NFL informed Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Ernie Sims(notes) that he was fined $50,000 for an illegal hit in a Week 7 game against Tennessee Titans receiver Lavelle Hawkins(notes). The fine came 10 days after the game. Usually, most sanctions are levied the same week.
The NFL said Sims was fined because he was a repeat offender and was guilty of "unnecessarily striking a defenseless receiver in the neck and head area with his forearms." Sims, of course, professed his innocence, called the fine "outrageous" and plans to appeal.
Here's the play in question:
Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott called it a "bang-bang" play. While there's definitely some extracurriculars going on with Sims' forearm, I don't see the necessity for a fine. The pain Sims probably felt in his forearm after smacking it on Hawkins' helmet was likely more than enough penalty.
Leaving that aside, why did the fine come so late? Perhaps it's because the Eagles had a bye last week, so the NFL didn't feel the need to rush. Or maybe nobody saw it until they were watching game film late in the week. (That's a problem with watching illegal hits; not all come on the ball carrier, so many occur outside the view of cameras.) A cynic could say that the league was so proud of its efforts to clean up dirty hits in Week 7 that they wanted to wait until this week to issue the fine.
Whichever way you view it, one thing is certain: Week 7 wasn't as clean as the NFL claimed.