NFL levies fines for illegal hits on quarterbacks

Updated: September 16, 2006, 10:46 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

In a week in which the most controversial and scrutinized hit on a passer was deemed legal by NFL officials, the league has levied fines against at least three defenders for illegal contact against quarterbacks.

Detroit rookie linebacker Ernie Sims, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett of Arizona and strong safety Roy Williams of Dallas were each fined $7,500 for excessive contact against quarterbacks in opening-week games, ESPN.com confirmed through league and team officials. It is also believed that Miami middle linebacker Zach Thomas was fined $5,000 for a hit on Pittsburgh quarterback Charlie Batch, but that sanction was not confirmed. All of the fines can be appealed.

On Wednesday, league senior vice president of football operations Ray Anderson absolved Cincinnati defensive end Robert Geathers of culpability for his tackle of Kansas City quarterback Trent Green, a third-quarter hit that rendered the Chiefs' star unconscious for 11 minutes and which will sideline him for at least two weeks with a concussion.

Green was outside the pocket at the time, scrambling up the right sideline, when the play occurred. The replays showed that Geathers was blocked into Green by Kansas City wide receiver Eddie Kennison, and that there was no helmet-to-helmet contact.

In a lengthy memo detailing the Geathers-Green play, and in which he reminded all teams of the pertinent rules for when a quarterback is sliding, Anderson cited the Sims hit on Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck as potentially illegal, and emphasized that it was under review by NFL officials. Considerable review of the play resulted in the $7,500 fine against the Lions' first-round draft choice.

The play came in the third quarter after Hasselbeck had scrambled for a five-yard gain.

Anderson noted that, while Detroit defensive lineman Cory Redding leaped to avoid contact with the Seattle quarterback, Sims "drove his helmet into the quarterback." The contact by Sims elicited a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

Sims said that, while he will be more careful when encountering sliding quarterbacks in the future, he will not permit the incident to reduce his zeal on the field.

"I've got to be a smart ballplayer," Sims said. "But at the same time, I can't let [something like this] take away from my game."

The play by Dockett, who dove at the legs of Alex Smith after the San Francisco quarterback had thrown an incomplete pass and was out of bounds, also drew considerable scrutiny from the league. San Francisco officials complained after the game about the play, but Dockett countered that his play was simply an aggressive one and that he did not regret it.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.