When officials flagged Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel for unnecessary roughness after Samuel apparently applied a helmet-to-helmet hit to Vikings receiver Sidney Rice, it was presumed that Samuel would receive a stiff fine, especially since he previously was fined $50,000 (reduced to $40,000) for delivering an illegal hit to Giants receiver Derek Hagan.
Not so, reports Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com. A league spokesman told Pelissero that Samuel will receive no further punishment beyond the 15-yard penalty that was imposed by officials.
“It was helmet-to-helmet, but it’s part of the game,” Rice said of the hit that he believes knocked him out momentarily. “You put it out there on the line. Every week, you go out there and you play for your teammates, and you try to do what’s right. So, I don’t know if it was intentional or what [Samuel's] thought process was, but it’s football.”
The league took the “it’s football” approach, but for reasons that aren’t apparently clear.
It’s possible that the NFL decided that Rice had possession of the ball long enough to no longer be “defenseless.” In those situations, the rules are violated only when the defender performs a helmet-first launch.
It’ also possible that the league regarded the helmet-to-helmet contact as unavoidable and/or incidental, which would mark another departure from the supposed “strict liability” standard that V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson explained would apply after the rash of big hits that occurred on October 17.