Sometimes, the league’s decisions regarding who to fine and who not to fine make perfect sense. Sometimes, they don’t.
It’s unclear why he wouldn’t have been fined. The rules prohibit a player from lowering his helmet and making forcible contact with an opponent. While it seems to happen regularly during games without a flag being thrown, it tends to get called when the resulting impact cries out for something to be done.
Case in point, in Week 10, 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw was penalized and ejected for lowering his helmet and forcibly striking Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. And, frankly, the Greenlaw hit didn’t look as bad as the Pickens hit.
The Pickens hit looked bad. It’s why he was ejected. So why wasn’t he fined?
The league rarely provides an explanation when such decisions are disclosed. This one cries out for more details.
Players and coaches need to know what isn’t and isn’t permitted. Media and fans crave certainty and clarity, too. The decision not to fine Pickens makes it harder for everyone to understand the limits of the permissible techniques.
And the explanation can’t be that the ejection was enough. It was garbage time, with the Bengals taking two knees and ending the game. Pickens didn’t miss a single snap of offense.
Whatever the explanation, it’s unlikely that one will be volunteered. It should be.