Danny Amendola hit was a total cheap shot, but not against the rules

New England Patriots' Danny Amendola (80) hits Kansas City Chiefs' Jamell Fleming (30) in the first
half of an NFL divisional playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass.
(AP Photo/Steven Senne) (Steven Senne)

Football is a violent game. Men that weigh 300 pounds or more running full speed into each other generating huge hits that often sends players flying through the air and crashing into the ground are the norm for what is the most watched sport in this country. Until recently such violent hits were even celebrated with their own segments in highlight shows where talking heads would laugh at the targets of such violence. And while we have become more aware of what damage these collisions are doing, and the long term implications of the multiple concussions these players have endured, the NFL has essentially done little but ignore the issue.

If you were watching the New England Patriots game against the Kansas City Chiefs you saw one of those hits, when punt returner Danny Amendola of the Patriots decided to not field the kick coming his way and instead prevent Chiefs defensive back Jamell Fleming from playing the ball. Now for those that haven’t seen the hit, twitter user @_MarcusD_, who posts lots of gifs and video from games, tweeted a nice video showing several angles of the hit. (You can also check out his website right here. It has lots of cool stuff to watch). Notice that it’s not a head to head hit as Amendola’s head passes in front of Fleming and impacts Fleming’s right collar bone area. It’s Amendola’s right shoulder pad that hits Fleming in the head. The hit delivered by Amendola was an absolute cheap shot, but despite the flag for unnecessary roughness that hit was, according to the rules, perfectly legal.

At this point you either agree with me, or you think I’m a homer and of course I think it’s legal. Well, lets look at one frame from that video. I would give credit for this picture but it was taken off a message board. If I’m informed who is responsible for making it I’ll add credits for it. The picture is clickable for a larger version.

Note that Amedola’s head is past Fleming’s head and it’s the shoulder pad making contact to Fleming’s head. It’s not head to head, so not illegal under the current rules.

But, wait. You think Fleming might count as a defenseless player? Well, it turns out he doesn’t have that protection under the rules. For confirmation about that we’ll turn to Mike Pereira, former Vice President of Officiating for the NFL and current Rules Analyst at FOX Sports. Here’s what he has to say about the hit (source):

So Fleming doesn’t get the defenseless player protection. The one other potential issue was brought up during the telecast when CBS Rules Analyst Mike Carey indicated that receivers couldn’t block back toward their own goal lines on a punt or kick. Now granted I only spent about 10 minutes looking, but I couldn’t find that rule anywhere in the rule book. If it were true that would also mean if a defender was chasing a punt/kick returner from behind you couldn’t block the defender from directly in front of him as you would be blocking toward your own goal line. That seems incredibly unlikely. Like many folks, I’m just going to presume Carey is, as he usually is, wrong.

Football is a violent game, and the Amendola hit on Fleming is just one of an incredibly large number of violent collisions that took place on Saturday in both games. It’s the reason why we watch. We cheer on the guys in the uniform we root for to crush their opponents and knock them out of the game, and then we whine and complain when it happens to our guys on a borderline play. The problem is the Amendola hit on Fleming isn’t even close to borderline, it’s completely within the rules as they’re currently written.

And for the NFL, that’s going to be a big problem.


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