NFC West: fines
A few NFC West notes wrapping up this Friday heading into Week 14:
- On the Dockett: Mike Jurecki of XTRA Sports 910 AM is hearing Arizona Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett could face a six-figure fine and limited playing time against Seattle as punishment for his actions during a 7-6 defeat to the New York Jets. Dockett and safety Kerry Rhodes denied a report that Dockett had spit in Rhodes' face late in the game. Dockett has acknowledged he disagreed with coaches' late-game orders to let the Jets score a touchdown so that the Arizona offense could get the ball back with a chance to tie the game. Players obviously cannot defy in-game coaching orders. Arizona must make that clear through its actions. This incident strengthens perceptions some of the Cardinals' defensive leaders, notably Dockett, are much better equipped to lead the team when winning than when things are going poorly. However, the defense has continued to play well despite the team's eight-game losing streak. That counts for something too.
- No fine for Wright: The NFL did not fine Chicago Bears safety Major Wright for hitting Seattle Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice in the back of the helmet on the final play of overtime in Week 13. Rice had caught the ball, turned upfield and was moving across the goal line when Wright lowered his head and shoulder. Wright's shoulder struck Rice's helmet as both went low. Rules prohibit such hits on defenseless players. The NFL defines defenseless players as, among other things, "a receiver attempting to catch a pass or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner." Rice was not a defenseless player by those standards, in my view. Also, this was not a helmet-to-helmet hit. I think that explains why there was no fine.
- Another non-fine: St. Louis disputed a roughing-the-passer penalty against the Rams' Robert Quinn. The NFL agreed with the Rams. There was no fine levied in this case.
- A few fines: The NFL fined Brian Urlacher ($21,000), NaVorro Bowman ($10,000) and Dashon Goldson ($7,875) for penalties involving roughness. The fine amounts are collectively bargained. All fine money goes to charities.
- Late injury news: The 49ers expect to be without receiver Mario Manningham on Sunday. Manningham has a shoulder injury. Rookie first-round pick A.J. Jenkins figures to become relevant on game day for the first time in the NFL. Rookie second-round choice LaMichael James also appears closer to contributing.
Here's hoping the rest of your Friday treats you well.
It was the right call, too.
Fitzgerald grabbed St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins by the facemask while preventing Jenkins from picking off a pass in Week 5. It was a smart move by Fitzgerald, but he'll have to pay the minimum $7,875 fine amount for first-time violators, Darren Urban of azcardinals.com notes.
Also fined from the Cardinals-Rams game: Robert Quinn ($15,750) for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb, and Jermelle Cudjo ($7,875) for pulling off Kolb's helmet.
The low number was telling.
Commissioner Roger Goodell usually metes out fines for such penalties when the league feels as though the flags were thrown for good reason.
In this case, Seattle's Brandon Browner was the only player receiving a fine for Week 4 flags from NFC West teams' games. He'll pay $7,875 for unnecessary roughness committed against Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings. Officials flagged Jennings, too, but they did not fine him.
The chart shows all Week 4 personal fouls against individual NFC West players or their opponents, sorted by team and shaded for your viewing pleasure.
The NFL did levy a $15,750 fine against Philadelphia's Jason Babin for a horse-collar tackle against Arizona's LaRod Stephens-Howling. Officials did not flag Babin on the play, although the penalty appeared to be blatant.
- No surprise: The rules are relatively clear if you've got enough time to study them and keep pace with periodic changes to them. I'll admit to needing a refresher periodically. In this case, Tate was delivering a blindside block on Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee. That qualified Lee for protections covering defenseless players. In general, those protections prohibit the blocker from hitting the defenseless player in the head/neck area. They also prohibit the blocker from using his own head to hit the defenseless player anywhere. In my view, Tate did lower his head so that his helmet impacted Lee. He also might have hit Lee in the neck area. Easy call for the league.
- Lee uninjured: Lee got back up pretty quickly and returned to the game following an examination. That was the most important detail relating to this play.
- Chunk of change: Tate was scheduled to earn $540,000 in salary this season. The $21,000 represents about 1.2 percent of his career earnings through Week 1. That amount is also the minimum fine for first-time violators of NFL policies on blindside blocks, hitting defenseless players and impermissible use of the helmet.
- Tate's return big: This play involving Tate has overshadowed the difference he makes for Seattle on offense. The team needs a big season from him. The receiver position hasn't worked out the way Seattle would have drawn it up. Sidney Rice has had injury problems. Kris Durham never developed. Ricardo Lockette has not taken the next step. The more Seattle has to rely on receivers such as Mike Williams (since released) and Braylon Edwards, the clearer it is that the Seahawks need to address that position in the offseason. With Tate back from a knee injury Sunday, Edwards played sparingly. Tate caught three passes for 38 yards.
- $30,000 against Dockett: The league levied two $15,000 fines against Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett. One was for striking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton below the knee area. The other was for a horse-collar tackle.
- $15,000 against Sherman: Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was penalized for a horse-collar tackle when bringing down 49ers running back Frank Gore.
- $10,000 against Lynch: Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch wore specially designed Skittles cleats. The league protested, according to Brian McIntyre.
- $10,000 against Davis: The 49ers' Anthony Davis was not penalized by game officials for blocking Seattle's Anthony Hargrove across the back of the legs during Kendall Hunter's 24-yard run. The league fined him, determining Davis had unnecessarily rolled up on Hargrove's legs.
There was no fine against the 49ers' Ahmad Brooks or Seahawks right tackle Breno Giacomini for scuffling after a play I noticed when watching the game on replay.
The most memorable play from that game involved referee Jerome Boger's microphone relaying Rams guard Harvey Dahl's profane protest over loudspeakers in the Edward Jones Dome. Boger called Dahl for holding, then added a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct after the microphone mixup.
Other personal fouls against the Rams -- two against Chris Chamberlain, one against James Butler and one against Eugene Sims -- did not draw fines. Failing to levy fines for personal fouls can indicate the league did not see violations.
Boger and crew called five personal fouls against the Rams and one against the Bengals. Boger was back at work Thursday night and was particularly active in flagging the Houston Texans during the final minutes of their defeat to Indianapolis.
@kylekinzie read my tweet about the $15,000 fine against the San Francisco 49ers' Ahmad Brooks' for roughing the passer and wondered why that fine doubled what the league assessed against Philadelphia's Trent Cole.
A couple reasons come to mind.
One, Brooks was previously fined $10,000 for a 2010 hit on Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton. That fine, like this one, was for hitting a quarterback in the head/neck area. Fines escalate with each new offense. That explains why this fine against Brooks was so substantial. Two, the $7,500 fine against Cole was for throwing Seattle's Russell Okung to the ground, not for the season-ending injury Okung suffered in the process.
Separately, the league fined St. Louis Rams running back Jerious Norwood $7,500 for a chop block against the 49ers' Parys Haralson. The NFL had not fined the 49ers' Frank Gore for the chop block committed against Baltimore earlier in the season. Norwood's actions were more consistent with those the league wants to eliminate. Gore committed a chop block only in the technical sense; at no point did his actions put an opposing player at heightened risk.
- Gore's chop unpunished: Coach Jim Harbaugh was right when he used the word "unlucky" to describe the chop-block penalty against Frank Gore during the San Francisco 49ers' 16-6 defeat at Baltimore. This was the first time Gore had been penalized for a chop block. The league did not fine him. That was the right call. Gore blocked low before guard Chilo Rachal made contact with the defender's upper body. This penalty flag was thrown unnecessarily. The absence of a fine supports that line of thinking. The penalty wiped out a 75-yard touchdown reception that would have changed how the game unfolded, at least to some degree.
- Wright docked heavily: Seattle Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright received a $15,000 fine for striking Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman in the neck area. This was a tough call for Wright. Nothing about the hit appeared dirty. I thought WRight shoved Grossman in the upper chest area. The league had access to additional views of the play.
- Giacomini, Tate pay price: The $7,500 fines against Seahawks tackle Breno Giacomini for a late hit and receiver Golden Tate for excessive celebration appear to have gotten a message across. Giacomini walked away from a confrontation against Philadelphia on Thursday night. Tate celebrated his latest touchdown without incident.
The league will wait until next week before reviewing plays from the Thursday night game between Seattle and Philadelphia.
Why would the league fine Goldson $25,000 and Doucet only $10,000 when Doucet started their fight? The answer lies in how those players' actions were classified.
Doucet's fine was for unnecessary roughness. Goldson's fine was for fighting. Those violations carry different consequences.
Fighting carries a minimum $25,000 fine for first-time offenders, according to rules agreed upon by the NFL and its player. Roughness penalties carry lower minimums.
Doucet might have started the incident, but it wasn't a fight in the NFL's eyes until Goldson went after him.
Chancellor could be subject to another fine after a helmet-to-helmet hit on St. Louis Rams tight end Lance Kendricks during Seattle's victory at St. Louis in Week 11. If the league determines Chancellor committed the same penalty in back-to-back weeks, a fine of at least $40,000 would seem likely, in my view.
I've put together a chart showing the NFL's schedule of fines for the 2011 season. Fine amounts are minimums. Players and owners agreed upon the fine schedule as part of their latest labor agreement. Per that agreement, the league reserves the right to issue larger fines and also to suspend players, depending on the circumstances.
"This will include a determination of whether the infraction occurred 'during the normal course of the game' (e.g., was consistent with the competitive tempo, pace and situation) or 'outside the normal course of the game' (e.g., was flagrant, unnecessary, avoidable or gratuitous)," the league wrote in explaining its fine schedule.
Fine information usually becomes available on Fridays unless players disclose the information earlier.
Beyond Chancellor's case, I'll be interested in finding out whether Arizona's Early Doucet and/or San Francisco's Dashon Goldson face fines for fighting. First-time offenders can incur fines of at least $25,000 for fighting.
The NFL made Smith pay, too,
Smith, who has 5.5 sacks over the 49ers' past three games, drew a $15,000 fine from the NFL for hitting the Detroit Lions' quarterback below the knee area as Stafford threw incomplete. The play drew a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer.
The league also fined the Lions' Brandon Pettigrew for a chop block. That fine was for $7,500.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Seahawks rookie Aaron Curry seemed to transform the Seattle defense with his edgy play against the Rams in Week 1.
The league fined him $5,000 for hitting Rams tackle Jason Smith in the knee area after a play.
Robbie Tobeck, Brock Huard and Mike Salk spoke with Curry on 710ESPN Seattle. Turns out Week 1 was not the only time Curry incurred a fine this season. The details came out after Salk asked Curry whether he had toned down his game since the opener.
Curry: I think I have taken one step out of my game as far as the whistle goes. I like to play to or through the whistle, but I guess playing through the whistle gets you dings in your pockets.
Salk: Did you get a ding in your pocket?
Curry: Yeah, I've had one every week except for last week.
Tobeck: I don't have problems with it. I love it. One of the things I really enjoyed watching was that first game of the year against the Rams and you and Steven Jackson were going at it. He was trying to take you out and you were taking your shots on him and I love it. That's football and that is what is so fun about football is being able to take a shot on a guy.
Salk: That's why you are going to pay his fines.
Tobeck: Remember, I was an undrafted free agent as a rookie. There is a big difference between the 108 grand I made as a rookie.
Curry said he's become more selective as to when he can "go into the pile" as plays are ending.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Lutui's facemask penalty resulted in a 15-yard penalty. The league said he grabbed facemask while attempting to make a block. Rodgers-Cromartie slammed Rams receiver Torry Holt to the ground well out of bounds. Rodgers-Cromartie, whose actions also resulted in a 15-yard penalty, said he thought Holt was still inbounds.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Gandy delivered a late hit near the goal line, drawing a penalty for unnecessary roughness. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has cracked down on penalties, but this one did not seem to bother him as much. It was an aggressive play near the goal line, though obviously late.
Wells' fine stemmed from a clipping penalty he incurred during Edgerrin James' third-quarter run on first-and-goal from the 8. The Cardinals settled for a field goal on the drive. Wells thought the block was legal. Whisenhunt said he would seek clarification from the league.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The NFL levied a $7,500 fine against Rams receiver Torry Holt for bumping an official during the Rams-Eagles game in Week 1. Holt was standing along the sideline when an official ran into him during Donovan McNabb's deep pass to DeSean Jackson early in the game.
The official immediately flagged Holt for unsportsmanlike conduct. The play appeared accidental -- Holt was merely creeping toward the sideline as the play developed -- but rules clearly prohibit that type of play.