Ravens think McClain’s hit on Miller was unavoidable

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.

49 responses to “Ravens think McClain’s hit on Miller was unavoidable

  1. Either they are compplete idiots or willfully ignorant. That’s the same excuse Harrison tried when he was fined $75,000 earlier this season. If they overturn it on appeal then they would have to re-visit Harrison’s appeal…which they won’t. I do agree that some hits are unavoidable but that’s not the way the league sees it nowadays. As a fan, I’d rather the 15 yards during the game than the fine later. And Periera is a toolbox.

  2. When I was watching the video, it looked like McClain was originally going for the hit, and tried backing out, and it looked more like he was trying to put his hands up stopping himself. He didn’t lead with the helmet or his shoulder pads, and didn’t throw the forearm like a big hit would be. I really think he was trying to stop. Just my opinion, but this wasn’t an illegal hit – just unfortunate.

  3. Florio

    Now do you believe the steeler fans in our complaints against the NFL when douche bags like pereria say stupid things like this. If Heath was carted off, I don’t think this douche would say the same thing.

  4. It’s absolutely PATHETIC how the Steelers cry because ONE or TWO calls that went against them could have been bad- and because they get the most attention, EVERYONE now actually believes the NFL has it out for them, when the Ravens have been playing rigged games for YEARS! The most questionable steeler call of the year that went against them was in a THIRTY-TWO POINT WIN! What about the completely rigged dolphins game? Meanwhile, the Ravens have been playing rigged games that have actually cost them wins and losses. Go look up Suggs’ hit on Carson Palmer- it cost the ravens the game! And the ref who called that penalty? Gene Steratore- WHO IS FROM PITTSBURGH and was the ref who RIGGED the steelers-dolphins game! Does anyone remember the FIVE terrible calls/non-calls on the falcons last two “TDs” including the Roddy White push off? It only cost the Ravens the game! Who was the ref? None other than Ron Winter- the same ref who called Suggs for roughing when he touched Tom Brady’s LEG and Tom Brady asked for a flag and got it! AFC North standings WITHOUT rigging: Ravens- 10-2; Steelers- 8-4. That’s NOT UP FOR DEBATE (unless of course, you want to disprove that these were the correct calls, in which case I’d LOVE to hear it).

  5. If you saw it happen in real time this was clearly helmet to helmet. It was the loudest “CLACK” I ever heard watching a football game. Everyone heard it. Miller was defenseless and got drilled in the head by the opposing player’s helmet. If you ask me, McClain was lucky to not be suspended for it.

  6. Just curious, Mike. You’ve been lambasting the Steelers for their “whining.” Did anyone from the team come whining to you like this? Sorry to be snide, but it appears Harbaugh can dish out dirt about teams being fined but has a mighty difficult time taking it. Nevertheless, the Ravens aren’t the enemy in this situation. The league is the enemy.

    The only thing I can tell about that replay is I was wrong about Heath being in another player’s grasp when McClain hit him. But I’d need to see a slo-mo frame-by-frame to get what you’re saying about his arm. It still looks like a deliberate helmet to helmet to me no matter what Pereira says. However, V.P. Anderson is one of the most unscrupulous people on Goodell’s staff, so if he says it was definitely a deliberate helmet-to-helmet hit, I’ll have to assume McClain tried to clocking Heath.

    But what difference does it make, really? Goodell went on the record saying it doesn’t matter if the offensive player turns, ducks, or does anything else in the last nanosecond, it’s the defender’s job to adjust. And Harrison was fined accordingly. As it is, Goodell fined McClain $10,000 less than he did all the other players from other teams similarly fined on first offense, and we’ve still received no explanation about that.

    Players will turn, fall, lean, etc., after defenders have launched. If the league were interested in player safety, they’d devote money to researching better helmets. They’d also expand the roster and allow more players to be activated for each game. And they’d certainly move heaven and earth to improve the officiating so flags could be used to do the intended job when they’ll actually help.. But the league isn’t interested in player safety; it’s only interested in cutting corners and finding scapegoats.

  7. Looks to me like McClain launched himself at Miller. Also, the ball was gone for a good step and a half to two steps and McClain showed no signs of letting up. As I watched the game in real time, I was as astonished as Chris Collinsworth that there wasn’t a flag thrown. It looked both vicious and avoidable. I thought I was looking at the first suspension for the year. I think the Ravens are definitely looking at it through rose colored glasses.

  8. Do you really think that these guys can slow motion, and stop action their bodies in a fraction of a second, while running at full speed? If so, why does anyone ever miss a tackle? They’re lucky to hit some of these guys at all, never mind pick a spot. Don’t forget that the ball carriers are trying their damnedest to make them miss altogether.

  9. First of all, ccoolahan, you are late for your 9-11 conspiracy theory meeting.

    As for the hit, you have to be drop dead stupid to think that wasn’t helmet to helmet. It’s as conclusive as it gets. And again, the challenge with the rule is no one can tell what the heck an illegal hit is. Is it helmet to helmet, or a hit to the head, with or without intent, on a defenseless player? If so, then McLain’s hit was illegal. But since Harbaugh and others don’t seem to know that tells you the rules are confusing, which directly contradicts Harbaugh’s emphatic statement prior to the game he and his players know exactly what the rules are. Either he knows the rule and understands no matter what McLain’s intent was the fact he hit Miller in the head was illegal (what’s that you say, it was shoulder to shoulder? Wow, that was a loud sound for shoulder to shoulder!).

    The Ratbirds and their scumbag fans can try and wiggle out of this any way they want, but that hut was helmet to helmet, it was illegal and it deserved a fine and the continued Ravens defense of it is ridiculous.

  10. ccoolahan14 says:
    Dec 8, 2010 5:30 PM
    It’s absolutely PATHETIC how the Steelers cry because ONE or TWO calls that went against them could have been bad- and because they get the most attention, EVERYONE now actually believes the NFL has it out for them, when the Ravens have been playing rigged games for YEARS!

    Pot, meet kettle.

  11. I agree that the contact may have been unavoidable, but that is the point of football. However, McClain did Miller in the helmet with his shoulder/forearm. The interesting aspect (and I wonder if the league considered this) is Miller’s head was coming down and if it hadn’t been it would have been helmet to helmet at that point. I think the jist of the rule is to not try and take someone’s (a defense player or Peyton Manning or Tom Brady) head off with your own head or your shoulder or forearm. I don’t believe it has to be helmet to helmet to draw a foul/fine.

  12. I love that these comments are coming out now. The same argument was made for countless other hits and as you said, its “strict liability.” I do however agree, this should not be a fine. Neither should half of the other hits this year. But, since the NFL in all its wisdom has decided to hold defensive players to an impossible standard, it has to stay with it.

  13. ccoolahan14: You make the point right there. The Steelers are a good enough team to overcome bad calls. The Ravens are not.

    rpiotr01: It was not helmet to helmet… it was forarm/shoulderpad to helmet.

    He delivered an illegal hit. It was unavoidable because he used improper tecnique. Just because you target one area and hit another doesn’t and it is unavoidable doesn’t make it legal. A drunk driver tries to stop before the red light but hits another car… it was unavoidable because of the situation. This argument is dumb. He hit him in the head, he has to pay a fine for an illegal hit.

    The difference between this hit and Harrisons illegal hit on Massaquoi is that Massaquoi saw Harrison and ducked. Miller was falling to the ground already. Both should have been fined. Deal with it.

  14. When it happens against Steelers, everyone says they are crybabies, when it happens against their teams its a penalty! Get use to it, Godell and his henchmen have it out for the Steelers and they overcome it, unlike the paper champ Jets!!!

  15. Florio we get it your a steelers fan…..
    and so is the other guy that nobody knows that writes for you.
    He is a loser and always wil be. He will never be on TV if he is it will be a 4th rate show that nobody watches..
    Your carrer wont go that far either. I say in 2 years this site will be no more and your career will vanish….
    Because writers that are homers never last in the business….
    unless your on ESPN and played for the broncos.

  16. I don’t know what’s more pathetic:

    The Ravens organization defending a hit that was clearly “illegal” from the standpoint of the league,


    The people who bashed Harrison/Steelers for the same types of hits and “excuses” and are now saying those hits aren’t illegal and are unavoidable when it’s someone not wearing black and gold,


    The fact that the Ravens organization actually reads PFT. I mean, seriously, Kevin Byrne, a team spokesperson actually e-mailed PFT because the organization didn’t like the “harsh” comments that were made about Harbaugh.

    Wow, those that called the Steelers whiners should wonder who really whines–when you have an organization that doesn’t like it when someone says something mean about their coach.

    That would be like Tomlin emailing PFT to complain about the negative articles/comments on Harrison…oh wait, that didn’t happen.

    You know Ravens nation, we’ve had the same types of calls against us in more than one game and we’ve won…it happens to you once, you lose, and now you’re all upset.

  17. Remember, these are elite athletes, who are capable of reacting in a split second and adjusting their bodies accordingly.

    BS Florio, BS

  18. The league can’t say what makes a hit legal or illegal…kind of like how they can’t determine what is & isn’t a catch.

    This league & officials get more pathetic each year, all led by King Dunce Goodell.

  19. That is a major problem with this entire illegal hit issue. It is tough to tell if it is intentional, could have been avoided, etc.

    From just looking at it, McClain absolutely crushed Miller after he didn’t catch the ball, and was the perfect definition of defenseless receiver. I agree that these are split second situations, and it is tough to determine the real intentional nature of it all. It would have been better for McClain if as a finely tuned athelete he could have shown more of an attempt to get out of the way. It really didn’t look like he did that.

    Therefore, if for example a Harrison or a Samual from the Eagles gets penalized and fined for their similar recent hits, then the officials should have penalized and fined McClain. They didn’t penalize McClain. They are not doing a very good job this year with this issue, among others.

    Looking at the hit is sickening quite frankly. Amazing Miller got up from that.


  20. Come on Ravens spoksman, we all watched the game. As for Pereire, he is now on ESPN, not head of officials, that he never said they ever made a bad call, that says it all

  21. i notice at the end of every article florio writes steeler related he always has a anti- steeler spin on his last sentence.. but when he is on nbc he acts like a unbiased little bitch… how would florio even know what elite athletes do or how quick they can react… hes a elite ass kisser ill give him that though

  22. From Periera’s chat on Fox…. answering about the hit on Miller….

    Mike Pereira: For the same reason, Patrick, that a flag was not thrown for Harrison’s hit on Massaquoi that resulted in the $75,000 fine.

    It’s obvious that the officials on the field DID NOT think it was a foul. McClain did not lead with his helmet, and the contact appeared to me to be on the shoulder, which still falls under the context of a foul.

    from PFT:
    “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.”

    read the last two lines of both…which is it? he lead with his shoulder or he didn’t? did he get his head snapped backwards by McClains Stomach?

  23. Although I’d have to look at it again, the first thing I thought when the hit happened was that it was unavoidable. Well actually the first thing I thought was that I hope Heath is ok. Anyway, this is the problem with the league. The league feels the hit was an unavoidable accident and that McClain hit him with his shoulder. That’s fair, but had the same situation occurred but McClain, through no fault of his own, accidentally connects with a part of his helmet then he’s flagged and fined 75k. There’s no way to predict how Heath is going to fall to the ground, so he could have just as easily hit him with his helmet had Heath fallen a different way. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? The league is flagging and fining players based on unavoidable plays that are 9 times out of 10 purely accidental. So if you accidentally scramble someones brains with your shoulder its ok but if you happen to hit him with your helmet you and your team get penalized. It’s bs. It ruins the game. You just can’t call penalties this way. It’s going to cost a team a big game sooner or later. It’s frustrating to see a player get fined because the receiver reacted a certain way which caused his and the defenders helmets to collide. But had he fallen a different way and the defenders shoulder strikes him in the head instead, well then it’s A-Okay. Meanwhile the results are still the same. Heath has a concussion and there was not a damn thing anyone could have done about it. Flagging players because their helmets collide is not the answer (unless it’s blatant, then as it has always been in the past, should be called a penalty.) The NFL has no idea what it’s doing.

  24. Not quite sure how anyone can say for sure it wasn’t helmet to helmet. First, as others have mentioned, the clack was extremely loud, and Collinsworth said so upon hearing it. Something like “I heard it all the way up here”.

    The video is inconclusive. You don’t see their helmets hit head-on, and you don’t see them miss. The first replay looks like the impact may have happened on the sides of their helmets. But again, it’s impossible to tell, if you ask me.

    I’m a Steelers fan and I have no idea if McClain was trying to hurt Miller. As the Ravens are saying, Miller was falling and McClain was coming in full speed. He doesn’t overtly throw his elbows out as far as I can tell, and it’s not a head-on collision. He might crouch a bit before the collision, but I have no idea if he’s bracing for the hit or not. I don’t see anything definitive about his intent when watching that video. Maybe I’m missing something.

    Which is why I’ve argued from the beginning that this whole thing is a mess. People can argue that the rules for illegal hits are clear-cut, but in looking at how they have (and haven’t) been applied over the past few weeks, I can honestly say it’s impossible to know based on the application of these supposedly clear-cut rules. In my eyes, it’s been wildly inconsistent at best.

    There’s simply no way an NFL player running at full speed can predict and react quickly enough to ensure that they are always “legal”. No way.

  25. As a Steelers fan, I would agree that it was unavoidable, and as a football fan, I agree that this hit, and most importantly, those like it should not be penalized. The game is too fast, and it involves HITTING. From time to time these hits are going to happen. However, if the league is going to be handing out the fines, they do need to hand them out for all these hits. If Harrison gets fined for his hits, then McClain need to be opening his wallet too, and vice versa. But, my preference would be for the league to just back off and lets these large grown men play this violent sport they signed up for.

    AFC North standings WITHOUT rigging: Ravens- 10-2; Steelers- 8-4. That’s NOT UP FOR DEBATE

    Don’t look at me to try to debate you. My momma taught me to be wise enough to not argue with an obvious fool.

  26. Let’s see the hit real time, and not slo-mo. And let’s see it with more of McClain as he was going to hit. He goes down because he things Miller is going to make the catch and stay up.

    I’ll save a box of Kleenex for all the Stiller fans crying about their James “headhunter” Harrison.

    BTW – Nice try on the back pedal, Florio. Your name isn’t Fonzerelli ( I was wwrrrr…..)

  27. Well, I see that the Ravens now agree with the Steelers’ view on the enforcement of the “Illegal Hits” policy by the NFL.

  28. I am a die-hard Steelers fan and a true hater of the Ravens and believe the hit on Miller was shoulder to helmet and I can see why a penalty was not called. Not so sure about the fine really should have been given either. I was surprised no penalty was called when Ben got his nose broken as it seems as if you so much breathe on a quarterback you get penalized and fined. Even still, it did not appear as if it was a deliberate attempt to injure. With that said, the resulting fines, non penalties, and the Austin Collie incident a few weeks ago, proves the NFL is way too inconsistent when it comes to throwing flags and assessing fines. Could you imagine the number of fines and penalty flags that would occur if this were still the 50’s and 60’s?

  29. I am a lifetime steelers fan and raven hater.. although the McClain hit was considerably more vicious than any of Harrison’s, he should not have been fined.. it’s football..
    there SHOULD have been a 15yd penalty.. shoulder/forearm/helmet to defenseless receiver’s head.. one of several missed that night..

  30. @thisaintchocolate thank you. That’s exactly what I would’ve said. That’s the same excuse most of us Steelers fan said, and the Steelers, and Harrison said about his hits. Most other fans didnt’ want to hear it though. I don’t remember any of them being Ravens fans though so I will cut you a break there.
    @chhutch27 if he was had his hand up trying to pull back, as you say, then why did he lean forward into the hit with his forearm and shoulder? lol

  31. As a Steelers fan, I don’t believe the hit should have been fined. Officials miss calls in every game. Like the hand to the face of Roethlisberger that broke his nose. But fining players is just political cover for the league office in it’s shallow attempt to show concern with injuries.

    Fire Goodell.

  32. UNAVOIDABLE???? Miller had already dropped the ball. It was on the ground before the hit.

    McClain clearly aimed for the head and hit it. Defenseless player hit to the head,. Perhaps Harbaugh needs to learn what the rules are.

    And for the douche from the Ravens FO that sent the complaint in to PFT, maybe you ought to tell your coach not to sit there on national tv and lecture the Steelers on hits when he and his own team dont understand what is legal and illegal.

    Harbaugh also coached his players to dive at James Harrison’s knees on an extra point attempt. He should be thrown out of the league!

    No classcoach, no class city, no class organization, no class team with 2 murderers on the roster.

    HE’S STILL DEAD, HE’S STILL DEAD chants next game in Pittsburgh right Lewis & Stallworth? Too bad Pittsburgh folks have class or our radio stations would drum up those chants!!!

  33. That’s what I’ve been saying all week. I felt that way as soon as I saw the first replay. He was flying full speed at Miller getting ready to make the tackle and then Miller missed the ball. You really expect him to be able to stop? It’s tackle football. People are gonna get hurt. That’s why these guys make the big bucks.

  34. Then don’t cry when you see Harrison make the same type hits… although I thought that was was even much worse. McClain clearly saw the receiver missed the ball and yet he lunged with his forearm & shoulder at Miller’s head anyway.

  35. I feel it was intentional. The dude had 2 steps, saw the ball pop up and was looking right at Heath when he was still moving toward him. Plenty of time to avoid the big pop.

    Hard to say helmet-to-helmet, looked more like forearm to facemask.

    I would put this one in the category of Harrison’s hit on Massaquoi, which was the only “illegal” one I’ve seen him fined for so far this year.

  36. the best part of the play (when watching slow motion) is that mcclain immediately looks up at the sideline ref with an “uh oh” face. Just like when you speed past a cop and keep looking in the rearview mirror…. i.e. = GUILTY!

  37. Anyone watching the video has to admit that McClain is “headhunting”.

    If ever the NFL was going to suspend a player for an illegal hit, this is the NFL’s opportunity.

  38. It was clearly unavoidable. He came in late to the play. and DID lead with his forearm.

    “McClain did not lead with the shoulder, forearm or the helmet,” Pereira said.

    Really? Did you even watch the replay Pereira?????

    We love the hate Florio, keep bringing it.

  39. Why is there even debate about it being intentional? I’m willing to give benefit of the doubt in most cases, and guess that 99.99% of football players do not want to end the career or life of another player. Mclain wasn’t headhunting, he made a tackle. However, even tho it was accidental, incidental, unintentional, whatever it still happened, and should be flagged. A fine for either Mclain or the golem that broke Ben’s nose is stupid.

    Contrast this to the “Harrison is a thug and should be put in jail” crowd.

  40. The Ratbirds and their scumbag fans can try and wiggle out of this any way they want, but that hut was helmet to helmet, it was illegal and it deserved a fine and the continued Ravens defense of it is ridiculous.
    it was an unnecessary hit, but watch TV sometime it wasn’t helmet to helmet. I hate stupid people, try watching the game before you sit there and say the fans of the team are scumbags…which really has nothing to do with the point. Have fun watching Harrison use his helmet as a battering ram, and then defending it to the bitter end that “Steelers are targeted waaaaaaah”….hypocrite

  41. Waah waah, Harbaugh… Same story with the Steelers, it’s all fun and games until it’s one of your players, then the “OMGWTF” comes out..

    Its the same type of hit that Harrison’s been fined for all year. Get used to the AFC North bias, Goodell wants the league to be weak like the NFC West.. YAY! *gag*

  42. Instead of seeing that any defense could wind up in Goodell’s crosshairs, Harbaugh pompously pontificated that his guys “get it” and eventually ours would, too. That was worse than Tomlin’s “unleash hell” from last season. But rather than debating which team whines more or which players are more thuggish, everyone should now be focused on what’s happening in the league.

    If the goal is to minimize concussions, it’s not working. Neither fans nor players are omniscient. We can’t know if a defender was trying to injure a receiver, and they can’t know when launching if a receiver will change position the nanosecond before they make contact. There must be a more effective way to address concussions. And instead of arguing among ourselves, we should be putting intense pressure on the league to FIX OFFICIATING ISSUES.

    I truly believe Flacco would have gotten the same treatment as Roethlisberger. However we ALL know McAuley wouldn’t have told Brady “He was just trying to tackle you. So I just let it go at that.” It’s high time that nonsense stopped and the league started fining officials for their screwups. Either a play is illegal or it’s not–no matter who is under center. This inconsistency undermines the integrity of the league. If the NCAA can manage to have booth review on every play, surely the NFL can.

  43. Sorry Mr. Ravens front office guy writing in to whine to PFT, but “helmet to helmet” isn’t even the issue here. It’s Miller being in the “helpless” position and getting whacked. Now get back to your Oprah website and stop playing around with e-mails.

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