Opinion: On fines, common sense needed

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
9:30
AM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Linebacker Rob Ninkovich has kept a low profile over the last two days and I think it traces back to his roughing-the-passer penalty against the Bills. This touches on a topic I believe the league needs to re-evaluate.

Later today, we are expected to learn that Ninkovich has been fined for making helmet-to-helmet contact with Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with 3:34 remaining in the second quarter of last Sunday's loss. Ninkovich was penalized 15 yards on the play.

In re-watching the play, one can see why a penalty was called.

Fitzpatrick rolls out of the pocket to the right, Ninkovich slows slightly, and in regenerating his forward momentum while putting his arms up to block a throwing lane, he leans forward and makes helmet-to-helmet contact. The contact comes after Fitzpatrick turns his head to the left after throwing, lowering the helmet into the area Ninkovich was leaning into.

That's a tough break for Ninkovich, because if Fitzpatrick doesn't duck his head, Ninkovich probably misses him altogether. Ninkovich looked to be in control, which was evident in how he pulled back quickly after making contact.

He clearly wasn't head-hunting, but by the letter of the law, one can see why a penalty was called.

A fine, however, seems unnecessary.

Assuming Ninkovich is fined, which I believe to be the case, this is just one example of my view that the league should add more common sense into its decision-making process of fining players.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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