Following up: No fine for Chancellor's hit

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
4:00
PM ET
RENTON, Wash. -- The big hit Seattle's Kam Chancellor put on Arizona's Todd Heap sparked rollicking debate on the blog and my Facebook wall.

The hit during Earl Thomas' interception return drew a 15-yard penalty from referee Al Riveron, but Seahawks coach Pete Carroll claimed the hit was well within the rules.

The NFL would become the ultimate arbiter on this one. A fine against Chancellor would validate the referee's ruling. No fine would support Carroll's point of view.

There was no fine, Chancellor said during the Seahawks' locker room media session Thursday.

"I felt like it was a clean hit," Chancellor said. "He made the call, so we had to live with it, but it was a clean hit."

Thomas joked he would expect his fellow safety to shield him from Heap or anyone else during an interception return, no matter what it took.

Chancellor's hit would have been outside the rules had he struck Heap in the head or neck area. Television replays appeared to show Chancellor striking Heap in the shoulder and upper-chest area, but I could not tell for certain. The league consults coaches' video from angles unavailable to TV viewers. Those apparently vindicated Chancellor.

According to the NFL rulebook, "A player who receives a 'blindside' block when the blocker is moving toward his own endline and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side" qualifies as a defenseless player. Rules prevent contact against defenseless players along these lines:
  • "Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him;
  • "Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/'hairline' parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body."

On the second point, "the provisions do not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or helmet in the course of a conventional tackle on an opponent."

See also: NFL video on rules changes.

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