NFL officials rarely eject players for illegal actions occurring before the whistle. On Sunday, the officials working the Washington-Philadelphia game ejected Washington defensive lineman Chris Baker after he flattened Eagles quarterback Nick Foles following an apparent interception.
They apparently shouldn’t have.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s game, we reported that Baker won’t be suspended for the infraction. On Tuesday, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told the Washington Post that Baker won’t be fined — and apparently shouldn’t have even been penalized for the hit that sparked a brouhaha, which included the ejection of Eagles tackle Jason Peters.
“Baker didn’t do anything wrong with that hit,” Vincent said. “When you look at the rule, he didn’t do anything illegal. People can say it’s a cheap shot and you can talk about whether it might fall under unsportsmanlike conduct. But when you know the rule and you look at the play, he didn’t hit him in the head. He didn’t hit him in the neck. We looked at it. I looked at it very closely. He’s not going to be fined for that.”
Vincent is right. While a quarterback following a change of possession is regarded as “defenseless,” that designation means only that he can’t be hit in the head or neck area or with a helmet. Baker blasted Foles while Foles was moving toward the play, but Baker didn’t hit Foles in the head or neck or with Baker’s helmet. (If Foles weren’t pursuing the ball carrier, Bakers couldn’t have hit Foles legally.)
Under the rules, it was a clean play. That’s an important point for everyone to remember going forward, by everyone. Especially the officials.