Friday, November 18, 2011
Mild NFL response to Lions-Bears fracas
By Kevin Seifert
The final tally for fines from last Sunday's game at Soldier Field is in: $62,500. Of that total, a relatively modest $30,000 resulted from the fourth-quarter fight instigated by Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and elevated by Chicago Bears cornerback D.J. Moore.
We discussed the issues involved in this week's Dirty Laundry post. Normally I don't get that excited about fines, but in this case it gives us a glimpse into how seriously (or not) the NFL viewed the physicality and chippiness of this game. In this case, the NFL didn't seem too concerned about the fight itself. According to its 2011 fine schedule, fighting is supposed to generate a minimum fine of $25,000 per player.
Stafford was fined $7,500 for throwing Moore to the ground by his helmet. Moore received a $15,000 fine for jumping up and tackling Stafford, and Lions guard Rob Sims was fined $7,500 for a late hit during the fight. Moore was the only player penalized during the game.
Meanwhile, the NFL fined Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley $15,000 for a roughing penalty on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. But the league did not discipline Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for contact that ultimately dislodged Cutler's helmet in the second quarter. As we discussed, it was up to the league to determine whether Suh "forcibly" removed Cutler's helmet or if it came off as part of incidental contact. The NFL chose the latter explanation, and it also didn't see fit to fine Bears defensive end Julius Peppers for a "clothesline" hit on Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in the first quarter.
We already knew about two of the fines: $7,500 to Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch for a late hit on Bears tailback Matt Forte, and $10,000 for Bears receiver Earl Bennett for wearing orange cleats and thus violating the NFL's uniform code.
In the end, the fines tell us the NFL acknowledged Stafford's role in starting the "fight" but, like game officials, blamed Moore for escalating it into a multi-player confrontation that obviously fell short of the league's technical definition for a fight. That Sims was the only other player fined as a result is something of an upset, but as players like to say, this is football and not tiddlywinks.
As for Fairley, the NFL ruled he technically violated its policy on hitting quarterbacks. Even Lions coach Jim Schwartz admitted as much, saying earlier this week: "What he did is he tucked as he went, rather than just keep on pushing."
Upward and onward....