Barbs aimed at Brees are way off target

November, 20, 2013
11/20/13
1:28
PM ET

I understand the uproar over whether a flag should have been thrown on San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks for his hit on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Sunday. Even though I think it was the right call, it was a bad break for Brooks -- who incurred a $15,750 fine -- and a high-profile illustration of how strict the NFL's rules have become.

However, I'm stunned by how many people have been taking shots at Brees on Twitter, TV and radio for "whining" about the hit -- or worse yet, saying he needs to toughen up.

First of all, it would be hard to find a tougher quarterback than Brees, who hasn't missed a start due to injury during his NFL career, despite undergoing major shoulder surgery after the 2005 season.

More importantly, Brees never whined or complained about the Brooks hit. He didn't have to. Officials got the call right on the field, so Brees just picked himself up, wiped the blood off his face and went back to work, leading the Saints to a 23-20 victory.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Brooks and Drew Brees
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsAhmad Brooks was penalized and later fined for this hit on Drew Brees.
Some of the criticism came after Brees' comments to the media Tuesday, when he described the hit by saying things like, "I can tell you how I felt when I got hit. It felt like I got my head ripped off. And I get up and I've got a mouth full of blood. So there was no doubt in my mind that, 'Hey, it's gonna be a penalty.'"

But again, that wasn't a case of Brees whining or complaining.

He was simply answering a series of questions from the media about a subject that has become a hot-button topic around the league.

Brees started by complimenting Brooks as a "hard-nosed, clean football player" and said he didn't think there was anything malicious or intentional about Brooks' hit. Brees even expressed sympathy for defensive players, since their strike zone is so limited under today's NFL rules.

However, Brees' take on the penalty was that he doesn't understand why there is so much debate, since the call seemed so obvious to him.

I agree. I think that flag gets thrown 10 times out of 10. We see flags thrown every week for calls that are even more borderline than that.

Click here for all of Brees' comments -- a well-rounded, fair and sometimes funny take on the hit that gave him a "go-go gadget neck" and his thoughts on the NFL rules.

Brees is one of the most thoughtful, insightful speakers on most any subject in the NFL. It's too bad he's getting ripped for that.

It's not just coming from 49ers fans on Twitter. Former players-turned-analysts have also been critical of Brees' reaction to the controversy.

Much of the criticism has come from former defensive players, but even an ex-quarterback, ESPN's Trent Dilfer, said he was "insulted" that Brees said after Sunday's game that he expected a flag to be thrown. Dilfer stressed on ESPN Radio's SVP & Russillo show that he wasn't taking a shot at Brees for being soft, but he said it's a sign of how times have changed in the NFL, compared to when it was a "badge of honor” for quarterbacks to stand in the pocket and take shots to the face.

"Now it's not part of the game,” said Dilfer, who said the league now calls penalties for "roughhousing."

Dilfer’s wider point is completely valid. I understand why there is so much debate about whether the rules for protecting quarterbacks have gone too far in today’s NFL.

However, the shots being fired specifically at Brees are misdirected. Someone should throw a flag.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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