Earlier today, we pointed out that Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who expressed support of the league’s enhanced focus on hits against defenseless receivers, took issue with the $40,000 fine imposed on Baltimore linebacker Jameel McClain for a helmet-to-helmet hit against Steelers tight end Heath Miller.
“Your harsh comments on John Harbaugh this morning are not based on the reality of Jameel McClain’s hit on Heath Miller,” team spokesman Kevin Byrne said via e-mail to PFT. “It was not a helmet-to-helmet hit. It was shoulder pads/arm to helmet. I think if you look at the tackle again, you’ll see this.”
Byrne said that McClain was aiming for the middle of Miller’s body and that Miller fell, changing the target area. “That happens,” Byrne said. “It’s bang, bang, happening in less than a second.”
The Ravens have a supporter, in former V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira. Pereira not only thinks McClain shouldn’t have been fined. Pereira thinks that the officials were right to not even throw a flag.
“I thought the hit this past Sunday night by Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain on Steelers tight end Heath Miller was not a foul,” Pereira writes for FOXSports.com. “I felt the contact that occurred was shoulder-to-helmet and unavoidable.
“McClain did not lead with the shoulder, forearm or the helmet,” Pereira said. “I know the defenseless player rule doesn’t say anything about leading with the shoulder but when you watch this play in real time, it truly happened so fast that the contact was clearly unavoidable, and McClain did not lower his head, lift his forearm or lead with the shoulder.”
At one point in October, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson compared the rule to “strict liability” legal requirements, which impose responsibility regardless of intent. But the decision to impose no fines for the hit that knocked out Colts receiver Austin Collie suggested that the league will take into account the question of whether the hit was unavoidable.
In this case, the league presumably concluded that the hit was avoidable, given the fine. When watching the video carefully, it appears that McClain reacted to the sight of Miller falling, and then directed a forearm into Miller’s head.
Remember, these are elite athletes, who are capable of reacting in a split second and adjusting their bodies accordingly.
Then again, maybe the league simply wasn’t interested in building a moat around 280 Park Avenue to keep out Art Rooney, Mike Tomlin, and a hoard of pitchfork-and-torches wielding Pittsburghers.