NFC South: ahmad brooks

METAIRIE, La. -- It's hard to say what was the most memorable part of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks' controversial sack against New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees last season: the league-wide debate that raged over whether Brooks should have been penalized? Or Brees' neck?

Brees' neck stretched so far when Brooks clotheslined him around the shoulder/neck area that it looked as though it was staged through special effects.

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees and Ahmad Brooks
AP Photo/Dave Martin"After the fact, the fact that you're still alive and win the game, it's all good," Drew Brees said of Ahmad Brooks' hit on him last season.
"Yeah, people had a lot of fun with Photoshop with that. I had the 'Go Go Gadget' neck," Brees told the San Francisco media Wednesday, in advance of Sunday's rematch in New Orleans. "I got a good laugh out of it, too. ... After the fact, the fact that you're still alive and win the game, it's all good."

It was one of the most controversial and critical plays of the entire 2013 NFL season. Instead of a sack and fumble that could have helped San Francisco protect a three-point lead, the penalty gave New Orleans new life en route to a 23-20 victory.

The penalty was widely criticized, with ESPN analysts Ray Lewis and Tedy Bruschi both offering to help pay Brooks' fine (a fine that was later rescinded on appeal).

Brooks' hit started out looking clean, with his arm initially hitting Brees high across the shoulders. But as the hit continued, his arm wrapped around Brees' neck and Brees wound up with a bloody mouth. At the time, Brooks said he couldn't help it since Brees is only 6 feet tall. Brees said he didn't think there was anything malicious or intentional about the hit, but that it was definitely a penalty.

A year later, Brees insisted that he hadn't even thought about the hit for "the past 364 days" until it popped up when he was watching game tape and when he met with the media.

"It mixes together with a bunch of others," Brees said. "So I wouldn't say it is something that I think about all that often."

When asked if he thinks the 49ers will still be salty because of the memory, Brees said, "I don't know. Ask them about it. From our perspective, that was a game that went back and forth. I think there were maybe breaks on both sides throughout the game. And the bottom line is we were down six points in the fourth quarter and we found a way on three consecutive possessions to go down and get points and win the game.

"A lot of things are gonna happen throughout the course of the game. And you just want to have a chance to win at the end. And the team came together and really fought hard to get that win," Brees continued. "And that's all I can say about last year. But we're really focused more on this year and the type of team we have this year, the type of team they have this year and how we can put together a great game plan and go out and execute that on Sunday."

Pro Bowl selections: Buccaneers

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
9:12
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Gerald McCoy and Darrelle Revis made the Pro Bowl. Lavonte David didn’t.

Something’s right with this picture and something is very wrong. McCoy and Revis belong in the Pro Bowl. But so does David. Shockingly, the second-year linebacker did not make the Pro Bowl roster.

John Abraham, Ahmad Brooks, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Robert Mathis and Terrell Suggs are the outside linebackers to make the Pro Bowl. Let’s not take anything away from any of those guys. But David deserved to be selected.

David had a breakout season and became only the seventh player in NFL history to record five sacks and five interceptions in the same season. But that wasn’t enough to get David to the Pro Bowl. Blame it on Tampa Bay’s 4-11 record, but this is a pretty major oversight.

McCoy and Revis both belong in the Pro Bowl, but David should be there with them.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

Ahmad Brooks did just about everything the NFL can expect from a modern pass-rusher Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. On one of the game's most important plays, Brooks approached Drew Brees with the combination of ferocity and caution that should have allowed him to navigate the league's extensive rules to protect quarterbacks.

Brooks, the San Francisco 49ers linebacker, blew past New Orleans Saints right tackle Zach Strief and aligned his head behind Brees. To initiate contact, Brooks slammed his right shoulder into Brees' right shoulder, and to wrap up, he extended his right arm across Brees' chest.

Brees' upper body snapped back, including his head in a whip-like fashion. In the process, Brooks' arm slid slightly in the direction of Brees' neck.

The ruling from referee Tony Corrente: Personal foul against Brooks, whose slight slip of the arm had violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9(c) -- which was amended last spring to specify that a penalty for a hit to the neck of a passer could be called even if the initial contact began below it. The penalty reversed a turnover and gave the Saints 15 yards on the way to a game-tying field goal. Brooks had hit neither Brees' head nor his knees, but he and the 49ers still feel victim to a technicality within the NFL rule labyrinth.

Did the play signify a turning point in the league's efforts to protect quarterbacks? Has it gone too far with its rules in the pocket? Is it unfairly penalizing hits like Brooks' when most quarterback injuries this season have resulted from scrambles or designed runs?

Speaking to reporters later, Brooks said he "basically bear-hugged" Brees and added: "That's just how football is played."

The NFL confirmed that sentiment, fining Brooks $15,575 for the play.

Brees, meanwhile, implied the penalty was justified because it was violent and left him with a bloody mouth.

"I don't think what Ahmad Brooks did was intentional at all," Brees told reporters. "I think he's a heck of a football player and a clean football player. A hard-nosed, clean football player. But you look at the result of that … and again in real-time … You can slow it down all you want and watch it and say, 'Look where the [arm is].' But 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.'"

Brees' reaction enraged earlier generations of NFL players, who saw nothing but a standard football play. ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said on ESPN Radio that the penalty was an example of how "the NFL product sucks" and suggested that "roughhousing" is now illegal in the NFL.

Dilfer called Brees a "dear friend" but added: "You're not preventing Drew Brees from getting a concussion by making that call. You're preventing him from getting a bloody lip.

"I was insulted when he came into the presser and said, 'I expected to get the flag thrown.' I can't tell you how many retired quarterbacks texted me … We played a game where we had to stay in the pocket and get hit in the face. We're not saying we're as good as Drew Brees. We're not saying he's soft. We're not saying the guys he is playing with are soft. But part of the badge of honor of playing quarterback in the NFL was standing in there and taking shots in the face and throwing a 20-yard dig route. That's what separated you from the other guys. Now that's just not part of the game."

Has the NFL gone too far? Has it substantively changed the game even as quarterbacks find new ways to get injured? ESPN's NFL Nation asked quarterbacks and defensive players to address the topic.

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"I think the most important thing is that the league is protecting all players and making sure of the players' safety. The quarterbacks are in one of the most vulnerable positions and whatnot so they definitely deserve that. And that's what it really comes down to, player safety."

-- Detroit Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, as told to ESPN.com Lions reporter Michael Rothstein


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"It makes it extremely difficult for pass-rushers and I think safeties. Especially I'd say guys going after the quarterback, because there's so many compromising positions that guys are in. You know, you're battling a guy, and all of a sudden the quarterback's there. And a lot of times, they're swiping at the ball and they catch a part of your head. I mean, there's things like that that are, 'OK, that's just a glancing thing. That was unintentional. No big deal.' I think it's the 'lead with the head' or 'explode up through your head/chin area' [that they're trying to prevent]. And again, I don't think what Ahmad Brooks did was intentional at all. I think he's a heck of a football player and a clean football player. A hard-nosed, clean football player. But you look at the result of that, and again it's in real time. You can slow it down all you want and watch it and say, 'Look where the ...' But 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.'"

-- New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees, as told to ESPN.com Saints reporter Mike Triplett


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"Quarterbacks are the bread and butter of the league. I guess you have protect your investment. It's definitely not easy, but I guess you have to play within the rules. As a pass-rusher, I saw nothing wrong with [Brooks' hit on Brees], but there was a flag and whatever else came along with that, it did. It's tough, but we to play within the confines of the rules."

-- Indianapolis Colts LB Robert Mathis, as told to ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells


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"No. I mean, I'm the wrong guy to ask, but no. They're trying to protect all the players, I think. No one wants to see injuries, no matter what position you play. But no team wants to see its quarterback get hurt. That's the way it goes. I'm sure San Francisco doesn't want to see their quarterback get hit either. Most defenses won't like it, but I'm sure every coach, every GM and every owner will appreciate what they're doing to protect quarterbacks."

-- New York Giants QB Eli Manning, as told to ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano


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"I feel there's a strike zone running from the shoulders to the knees for a quarterback. If you go down to the knees of a quarterback, you're going to get called. You go up to the head, you're going to get called. It's tough. You're playing full speed and at the last second we're trying to avoid a tackle and duck and move. Sometimes, things happen."

-- Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith, as told to ESPN.com Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher


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"Yup. They are. They definitely are doing way too much, going way overboard to protect quarterbacks, and it's crazy, because we can't play the way we want to play. There's nothing you can do. You can change the way you play, but they're just going to make another rule."



-- New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul, as told to ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano


Wake
"Yes. I think if you look at the play, I didn't see any helmet-to-helmet [contact]. I'm not an expert on the rulebook. But from looking at the rulebook, you're not supposed to hit the quarterback with your helmet or lunge or torpedo. But I didn't see any of that happen on that play. And of course as a defensive person, they do overdo it when it comes to quarterbacks. They're playing football just like we are. I always think about it: When am I defenseless? I don't think I'm ever defenseless on the field. But you can't hit [quarterbacks] too low, you can't hit him too high, you can't hit him too hard, don't slam him too hard, don't touch his helmet, don't hit his arm. Play football."

-- Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake as told to ESPN.com Dolphins reporter James Walker

Brees: Penalty sure felt obvious to me

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
7:00
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METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees praised San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks as a "hard-nosed, clean football player" Tuesday and said he didn't think there was anything malicious or intentional about Brooks' hit against Brees that resulted in a personal-foul penalty on Sunday.

But Brees said there was no doubt in his mind that the penalty was well-deserved -- a topic that has been much-debated over the past two days by 49ers players, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and many national analysts.

[+] EnlargeNew Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees
AP Photo/Dave Martin"I can tell you how I felt when I got hit," Drew Brees said. "It felt like I got my head ripped off."
Although Brooks first made contact with Brees around his shoulder and chest, it quickly turned into a clothesline tackle across Brees' neck.

"I think anyone that was watching the game real time, live speed, nobody's gonna sit there and say that wasn't a penalty," Brees said. "Now, when you slow it down, it looks like he hits me here, kind of in the chest. But I get up and my mouth was bleeding. So I don't know if you get hit in the chest and your mouth bleeds. ...

"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.'"

Again, Brees wasn't critical of Brooks. He was merely responding to the questions about the uproar over the subject. He had fun with the topic -- joking that "it looked like I went go-go gadget neck" and comparing himself to a "crash-test dummy."

And Brees laughed when he was specifically asked about comments from ESPN analysts like Ray Lewis and Tedy Bruschi.

"I assume there was probably defensive players that disagreed?" cracked Brees, who had heard that Lewis offered to pay half of Brooks' fine if one is levied.

When told that Lewis also said Brees was fortunate to only be 6 feet tall, because the hit would have been clean if he were 6-5, Brees said, "Well, there'd be maybe a lot of other things I could do if I was 6-5, too. But I'm not complaining. I guess it pays to be 6-foot."

Brees even showed sympathy for defensive players who have to deal with such a limited strike zone when it comes to hitting quarterbacks and defenseless receivers. Just a few weeks ago, Brees was on the sideline offering tips to Saints cornerback Corey White after White got flagged for two similar personal-foul penalties of his own.

"I'm a quarterback, so I benefit from that," said Brees, who doesn't think the rules have become too strict. "But it makes it extremely difficult for pass-rushers and I think safeties -- you know, guys that are hitters and then guys going after the quarterback. Especially guys going after the quarterback, because there's so many compromising positions that guys are in. You know, you're battling a guy, and all of a sudden the quarterback's there. And a lot of times, they're swiping at the ball and they catch a part of your head."

Saints coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan agreed that it has become a tough balance for defensive players. They mentioned examples such as White's penalties and a penalty against safety Malcolm Jenkins from earlier this season. Jenkins actually had a fine rescinded when he appealed his ruling.

But the coaches said everyone is aware of the rules they're dealing with.

"Those are the rules. You don't have to like the rules but you gotta play by 'em," Ryan said. "Those are things you have to constantly coach. The best thing about this game is the players. I think the safety of the players is something that everybody is coaching."

Payton also added that those tough calls tend to swing both ways.

He said in the Saints-49ers game alone, the Saints had to absorb some of their own bad breaks. Then he saw it again a night late on the controversial no-call that ended the Carolina Panthers' victory over the New England Patriots.

"The pass interference on Corey in the second quarter was a big play that went against us that ended up resulting in a field goal for them. The intentional-grounding call on Drew was incorrect, and that ended up being a significant play," Payton said. "You saw a game last night which ended in a real -- I want to use the correct term here -- unique way."

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