For the vast majority in the shrinking minority who were still watching Thursday night’s game in the second half, Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan‘s knockout blow to Packers receiver Davante Adams prompted a cry that Trevathan should have been ejected. After the game, referee John Hussey explained why he wasn’t.
“From my perspective I just didn’t see enough to rise to that level,” Hussey told a pool reporter. “That issue I would have is a judgment call. Was it egregious, was it completely unnecessary? I didn’t have enough information from my perspective to make that.”
It’s hard to fault Hussey because big hits like that happen quickly, and it’s easy to miss them when: (1) among the players; (2) not in pads; and (3) motivated primarily by the survival instinct. And to the extent that the owners adopted a rule on “automatic ejections for egregious hits to the head” in March, the 2017 rule book contains no new language mandating automatic ejections for egregious hits to the head.
The hit nevertheless violated the rules. As Hussey explained it, Adams had made the catch and become a runner, and the defense had stopped his forward progress. In that situation, the player becomes “defenseless,” which means that he can be hit — but that he can’t be hit in the head or neck area or with a helmet.
Trevathan’s hit also appeared to violate the rule preventing the ramming of another player with the helmet, regardless of whether the player is defenseless. While typically a rule that applies when a runner decides to dip his helmet beyond the tackle box in order to ward off a defender, it also applies to defensive players who “line up” an opponent for a blow of that kind.
Ultimately, the ejection didn’t happen because officials continue to be reluctant to toss players, since that could be viewed as affecting the outcome of a game. The next question becomes whether the league office will suspend Trevathan. And that’s an issue for a separate post.