Why hit on Pierre Thomas was legal

January, 16, 2012
1/16/12
10:32
AM ET
During the Countdown Live chat throughout Saturday’s playoff game between New Orleans and San Francisco, many of you were wondering why the hit on Saints running back Pierre Thomas by 49ers defensive back Donte Whitner didn’t result in a penalty.

Thomas
It was clearly a helmet-to-helmet hit. The play came deep in San Francisco territory in the first quarter. Thomas fumbled the ball as soon as he was hit and the 49ers recovered.

Thomas left the game immediately. He was taken to the locker room, presumably to be evaluated for a concussion. The Saints never gave an official report on his condition, but Thomas never returned to the game.

But here’s a story that gives a detailed description of why Whitner’s hit was legal.

The bottom line why it was considered legal is because Thomas did not fall into the category of a “defenseless player." Once Thomas possessed the ball, he turned and made a “football move’’ before he was hit.

Once Thomas made the move, he no longer was considered defenseless.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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