Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Friday, December 12, 2008
NFL determines Willis' big hit within rules

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis will face no fine for the hit that knocked Jets receiver Brad Smith from the game Sunday.

We discussed this play at length earlier in the week. It did not appear dirty, in my view, even though Willis' helmet struck Smith's helmet during the collision. As noted in the earlier item:

Safety Michael Lewis was chasing Smith from behind when Smith seemed to notice Willis approaching from the front side. Smith slowed and started to duck as Willis closed the distance. Lewis was tackling Smith from behind when Willis lowered his shoulder and hit Smith high.

Smith initially got up, seemingly on instinct, then dropped to his knees after about 13 seconds. He spent the next 93 seconds on the ground while medical personnel tended to him. Smith then rose with help. Nearly another 30 seconds elapsed while Smith left the field.

CBS analyst Phil Simms said he thought the hit was a clean one. Replays showed helmet-to-helmet contact. This did not appear to be a dirty play, in my view, but it was certainly violent.

Willis is one of the most violent players in the league without being a dirty player. I remember an end zone hit he put on Cardinals tight end Leonard Pope one week. It was a direct shot to the ribs that seemed to say: "Think twice before entering my neighborhood again."