Hit that injured Lockette was illegal, but NFL didn’t fine Heath


The NFL has confirmed that Cowboys safety Jeff Heath committed an illegal blindside block when he inflicted a season-ending neck injury on Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette on Sunday. But in a surprising decision, the NFL did not fine Heath for the hit.

Ordinarily, fines for illegal blindside blocks are $23,152. NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said in the NFL’s weekly officiating video, however, that league discipline considers other factors beyond strictly whether a penalty was committed, and Heath’s hit wasn’t considered dirty.

“As part of the discipline process, when it’s reviewed during the week, you can consider mitigating factors, mitigating factors such as the receiver’s head level changing. Those types of things are considered in the potential fine process. On the field, the rule is strict liability for the player delivering the block,” Blandino said.

It’s surprising to see the NFL let a player off without a fine when he committed a penalty that resulted in another player being seriously injured. But the NFL’s decisions on fining players are often surprising.

79 responses to “Hit that injured Lockette was illegal, but NFL didn’t fine Heath

  1. osiris33-and-beastmode5150-are-delusional-trolls says:
    Nov 6, 2015 6:30 PM

    Someone tell me how that was a blindside when both players were facing each otehr.
    …and Lockette reacted by lowering his head into the hit.

  2. As a Seahawks fan the hit looked fine to me. I think most players will agree. It’s football. Dudes get hurt, just glad he is recovering well. Lockette might be one of if not the best special teams players in the league, when you play that hard it can be rough.

  3. It wasn’t blindside. That’s just what the refs said so they could throw on some more penalties. Guess they felt bad that Lockette was so brittle.

    Butterfly effect: If refs didn’t cheat on the 12th man penalty, Lockette would have been able to walk home from the stadium.

  4. Lifelong Seahawks fan here and big fan of Ricardo Lockette, in part because, from a fan’s perspective, he seems to have a great attitude and tremendous work ethic. Having said that, I’ve watched the hit numerous times and I still don’t understand why it was penalized. Even if the penalty was correct, there was nothing dirty about it. Heath does not deserve to be branded as a dirty player by that hit.

  5. So now hitting a player in the front is a blindside block. NFL officiating is a complete joke.

  6. As a Seahawk fan, I find nothing wrong with the hit/block. I’ve seen the similar /same hits since the 70’s in college and pro games with players getting up and walking away.

    Just a real bad result from the hit. Hopefully he can play again but, I’d rather see him have long term health with little to no issues from the injury.

  7. Well they didn’t fine Michael Robinson for blocking Derrek Wolfe with a direct hit to his helmet while Wolfe had already been blocked to the ground. In a pre-season game of all things. Wolfe was carted off the field on a stretcher and later that season started suffering from seizures. I guess what goes around comes around. Deal with it.

  8. It was a blind side block the same way it was a touchdown when the players bottom hit the turf before the ball crossed the plane and the same way it wasn’t a catch/fumble when McFadden caught the ball and took three steps. The refs/nfl are just making stuff up at this point.

  9. So your blindside is now applicable when you are facing another person and see the hit coming? O_o

  10. No matter how many times I see that hit I still don’t see a penalty. I hope Lockette makes a fast and full recovery but there was no intent there. Lockette saw it coming, unfortunately he instinctively lowered his head into it. Football is a violent game, particularly on special teams.

  11. No matter how many times I see that hit I still don’t see a penalty. I hope Lockette makes a fast and full recovery but there was no intent there. Lockette saw it coming, unfortunately he instinctively lowered his head into it. Football is a violent game, particularly on special teams.

  12. It wasn’t a blindside hit, It was Legal all the way, it was just an unfortunate incident nothing dirty about it Football is and will always be a violent sport.

  13. Out of all the replays I’ve seen, only one showed Heath prior to the hit…

    While I still don’t think it was an illegal hit, he came in from Lockette’s left side, originally out of his vision. To me, Lockette’s “oh crap” reaction to lower his head to brace for impact proves he didn’t see Heath until the last moment. But, that’s just my opinion. I’m hoping that Lockette will talk about it some day so that we don’t have to keep guessing.

    Again, all that being said, I STILL don’t understand the flag and the re-affirmation that it was an illegal hit. To me, it’s not a blindside hit just because the player didn’t see it coming in time.

  14. This is why fans hate the NFL front office, Blandino, Goodell, and the refs. They sit there and tell you two guys that square up on each other, hit face to face, is somehow a blindside block. No explanation, nothing. Just telling you 2+2= 5. And, of course, they’ll get away with it because no cares about the integrity of the sport, just their fantasy points. Enough is enough with this league.

  15. Watching the game when the ref announced a penalty for blindside hit, he did know people were watching on TV right? Even the announcer maybe Aikman said it wasnt a blindside hit.

    Now the NFLWWE has now resorted to lieing about penalties and mis-annoucing and mischaracterizing penalties.

    What a joke the NFL has become.

    South Parks Goodell-bot is looking mild compared to whay most football fans are saying about the NFLWWE

  16. That hit was not illegal; it just looked bad. No fine is necessary. Based on Blandino’s dumb comment of the week, any play that receives a fine is considered dirty by the league.

    Stop most of the fines for on-field plays. Keep ONLY those fines on plays that are an obvious intent to injure. Hammer the headhunters and leave the rest alone. Every personal foul should not require a fine. The fines do not work as a deterrent. Therefore, fines should be used as a documenting and escalation tool. Fine, increased fine, suspension, ban.

  17. Very interesting to see Blandino saying that this was an illegal bit by Heath. During the broadcasr while reviewing the replay several times, former head of officiating, Mike Pereira continued to stick with this opinion that it was not an illegal blindside block, and that there should not have been a penalty called.

    There really must be problems when two authorities on the subject can’t agree on what the rule book says. Was Pereira just totally wrong here?

  18. The point the NFL makes here is a good one. Just because a player commits a penalty does NOT make the play dirty. Yes is it hard to determine intent from video alone, but given the play happened before the whistle blew, and that this is a very common occurrence during returns (the block itself, not the result), I am fine with the NFL giving Heath the benefit of the doubt here.

  19. Blandino and all of his officiating experience…oh, wait he doesn’t have any, yet has all that power

  20. No….it wasn’t a blindside hit. Any logical person with a brain can see that. God there a lot of stupid people out there.

  21. Players get injured every game, and the majority of the injuries happened on legal plays. I thought this was a clean hit. It wasn’t unnecessary, and it was close to impossible for the defender to avoid the hit. I’m 100% in favor of protecting players and I would throw guys out of the league for repeat offenses. I just don’t think this was one of them.

  22. Guess they felt bad that Lockette was so brittle.

    The man spent more than a week in the hospital after neck surgery. He’s the gunner on returns and you have the mouth to call him brittle. What a jerk. He could have been paralyzed.

  23. The NFL should allow a player who is in position to block the
    player to hold him or catch him in some way that allows the block
    to be completed but not hurt the player. I know it sound crazy or
    soft …but what matters is that no one gets hurt and the play continues.
    So instead of blocking the guy into the next millennium allow the blocker to grab him like they do in practice.

  24. Routine special teams play. Had Lockette gotten up after the hit or not lowered his head prior to impact, the flag never comes out.

  25. It’s the predictable chicken-s— decision by the NFL. They know the hit was clean, but the “right” thing to say is that is was “illegal”…so yes it was illegal, but no we’re not going to fine the player because he did nothing wrong.

    If the league had any integrity they would admit the obvious…that the hit was perfectly legal and while it’s unfortunate that a player got hurt, the only players who should be fined are the a–clowns on the Seahawks who have no problem delivering the same hits, but suddenly are appalled when it happens to one of theirs.

    That would take backbone…so of course it’s not going to happen.

  26. superbowl48champs says:
    Nov 6, 2015 7:43 PM
    Even as a Hawk fan, I thought the hit was clean. Guess it depends on if the officials are in a good mood or not when calling penalties.
    I think the team’s involved, current standings and the score are bigger factors.

  27. I’m proud of my fellow 12’s for taking the high road and calling this for what it was…a legal hit that injured our player. Way to eliminate all whining on this one! Go Hawks!!

  28. I do not understand how this could be a blindside hit unless the runner’s eyes are in the back of his head. I am officially sick of Nick Blandino’s excuse making for bad calls. There was no fine because by any reasonable standard this was not a blindside hit.

  29. I thought it was a crossover block on the kickoff. Looked like Lockett was screened on the the play but the screen looks designed.

    A designed screen is a blindside block and the NFL needs to discuss this.

  30. The comments on this article are pathetic. All the tough guy arm chair qb’s that have never taken a hit. Tough guys who constantly comment on the sissification of the nfl – cause big hits is what it’s all about right???

    The hit was not intended to be dirty be resulted (from multiple unfortunate circumstances) to be a blindside to the neck of a young man. The nfl made the correct call to not fine, but to say he wasn’t lit up unprotected is foolish. This is unprevebtable in the nfl. Let’s not justify it glorify it, but instead accept the fact it is a risk the players take and move on.

    Let’s all remember Lockett is a kid. Let’s not care about officiating and be happy he isn’t paralyzed.

  31. Cardinals fan here. Cool to see you ‘hawks fans taking the high road and calling it the way you saw it! Praying Lockette makes a full recovery and gets back to playing and we’ll see y’all in a week!

  32. 12 here…it was a football hit by football players in a football game. I have been on the field sidelines a few times at C-link and if some of you haven’t, you wouldn’t believe how hard these dudes hit…and walk away 99% of the time. Oh yea.. Seattle 13…cowgirls…12!..

  33. hawktawker says:
    Nov 6, 2015 7:55 PM

    I’m proud of my fellow 12’s for taking the high road and calling this for what it was…a legal hit that injured our player. Way to eliminate all whining on this one! Go Hawks!!


    Good on ya, 12’s….now go talk to your players and eliminate their whining. 🙂

  34. Meanwhile Mr Bennett, who called Heath and the rest of the cowboys classless, was fined $20,000 for his hit on Matt Cassell.


  35. “Because the fine system is so messed up it would’ve been his whole damn game check. It should be a % of game check system.”

    Actually that’s exactly how the system works. That’s why you get the odd amounts the guys are fined, its based on a percent.

    And one reason fines are often reduced is Goodell consistently fines players more than the amount allowed by the CBA. Just another way he lies to the public. He can hand out big fines at times so he looks like he’s being tough knowing full well its going to be reduced.

  36. kenmasters34 says:

    So now hitting a player in the front is a blindside block.

    And diving for the end zone with the ball clutched in your hands isn’t a football move.

  37. You can debate all day long whether it was a legal hit or not. The fact is that there was a call and the correct question has been posed, why was there no fine?

    Until the NFL admits to it being bad call, the overarching question remains, why wasn’t Heath fined, which underscores the inconsistency in NFL administration.

  38. Hate that is an illegal block now. The NFL should take notice of how many people think this is a ridiculous call/ rule.

  39. Lawyers and social justice warriors are ruining the sport. Only a lawyer could call a front-on tackle a blindside hit.
    PS. I hate the Cowboys.

  40. the hit was not “illegal” – the flag came late because the refs saw Lockett wasn’t moving – classic CYA by the refs and the NFL.

    can the NFL get anymore incompetent? it’s time for Congress to remove their anti-trust exemption and allow someone with brains and balls to start a real competitor – not Vince McManhon’s XFL – but real football people who care about the game and not rich owners just trying to fleece as much $$$ from the public as possible….

  41. The definition of blind is literally “not seeing”. Lockette saw Heath, braced for impact and by doing that he lowered his helmet into Heath’s pads. The flag was a knee-jerk reaction to a big hit, and he wasn’t fined because it was a legal hit. Stupid explanation on top of it. Can’t be blindside if the player is literally staring at and reacting to the opposing player

  42. I’m 23 and still have the NFL dream but it’s slowly dying. I’m done even trying to figure this stuff out. I wouldn’t even want to play with these ‘rules’.

  43. Packernet says:
    Nov 6, 2015 8:26 PM

    Fellow 12s? How lame.

    Yes…it’s just SO much better to wear a block of cheese on your head! So much more dignified than the number 12.

    Packer fans will never get over the fail Mary and the NFC meltdown. Seattle…where all Packer’s fans go to have nightmares.

  44. I am a hawks fan and I don’t have any problem with the hit. I do think it’s dirty, but I’m okay with that, it’s part of football. Any peel back block is a dirty. With that said I do have a problem with hypocritical cowboys fans who bitched and moaned about Golden Tate decleating Sean Lee on a very similar play a few years ago. Was that dirty? Of course, but so was this one. Anytime you peel back and hit someone who is essentially blind to you as hard as you can it’s dirty and dangerous… But one of the reasons we love football. I just wish it didn’t end lockette’s season. I can’t recall for sure, but I think it may have ended Lee’s too.

  45. I don’t get it. “IT” being how they determine what is/isn’t a hit, catch, fumble, etc. Maybe we’re expecting too much of humans.

    I saw what most people saw…two guys colliding while looking directly at one another. It was violent and scary but not dirty. Apparently the NFL agrees but the refuses to call it what it was, two guys playing ball resulting in an unfortunate injury.

  46. Blandino is the worst and needs to be fired and banned from football. He makes the game worse each week. Much respect to Hawks fans for seeing the legal hit for what it was and not whining.

  47. I think that no one knows what the hell is going on in these games,turning into one big joke, thank goodness I have grand children to watch ,their leagues are better organized than what has been going on on Sundays

  48. Hm… it was a blindside hit but both players were facing forward? And no fine? Yeah, this is the NFL PR team trying to look good because someone got hurt on a clean, legal block.

  49. From watching football for going on 50 years now, I think I can see how it might be considered a blindside. Both players were running full steam ahead and, at some point in time, a collision became inevitable. Although Lockette did turn towards Heath at the last minute, it was far beyond the point where he could have done anything to avoid the collision. Although Heath was aware for some time that there was going to be a collision, Lockette wasn’t aware until it was too late to do anything about it. I don’t think it was a “dirty” hit, nor do I think it should have incurred a fine, but in real time, it was close enough to throw the flag.

  50. This exemplifies everything about the current state of the NFL. Forget if you think it was or wasn’t a blindside, it’s that the official statement is the hit was illegal, but there was no fine, even when the rule book clearly states there is a fine associated with this type of illegal hit.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the NFL!

  51. They’re not fining him because it was a legal hit, he did nothing wrong, and the league knows it.

  52. Even the announcer maybe Aikman said it wasnt a blindside hit.

    First Aikman is the worst commentator and biggest Dallas homer on the planet.

    Second, what do you expect from the team and fan base that embrace a women beater?

    No class

  53. 71 responses and no one mentions the dozens of times that Hines Ward used this technique on truly unsuspecting tacklers. It earned him a reputation as a tough guy. His blocking against opponents that saw him coming was considerably less vigorous.

  54. Hit that injured Lockette was illegal, but *ROGER GOODELL* didn’t fine Heath.

    Another example of the arbitrary nature of the NFL’s disciplinary system.

  55. At least he wasn’t accused of letting some air out of a football, then there’d be trouble. Just a blindside hit resulting in the loss of a key player for the season, no biggie.

  56. So bizarre. He sees the guy and puts hos head down. This guy lockette always has type of theatrics when he plays, i didnt believe he was hurt honestly. The guy rather flop for a penalty than catch a super bowl winning pass

  57. This is more of a “the call stands” statement as opposed to being a firm affirmation backing up the call on the field. However, no fine also lets everyone know that it really wasn’t illegal, but that no film to show absolutely one way or the other.

    Personally, I felt it was legal and didn’t understand when seeing it live, why the flag was thrown. Nothing has shown me that my initial feeling was in error.

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