Bostic hit, by rule, was illegal -- but worth a fine?

Bostic hit, by rule, was illegal -- but worth a fine?
August 22, 2013, 9:15 am
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Mark Strotman

Though it was reported yesterday afternoon, nearly 24 hours have passed since Jon Bostic was fined $21,000 by the NFL for his hit on Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie and it's still a hot topic around the sports world.

Though Bostic said he has not heard officially from the league -- thus he isn't able to comment on whether he'll appeal the fine -- teammates, coaches and the vast majority of social media was in the rookie linebacker's corner about the legality of his hit in last week's preseason game.

But according to league rules, it appears the mini uproar in Chicago should be about what defines a legal and illegal hit, rather than about what Bostic did.

According to Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7 (b2), a penalty results when a player is found to be "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."

[MORE: Bears not buying Bostic fine]

One can argue --and many have -- that Willie had caught the ball and taken a step upfield, but given that the ball was jarred loose and ruled an incomplete pass, Willie is still a defenseless receiver.

The league is also looking out for its defensive players with this rule. Though Bostic clearly made contact using his shoulder and his head was across Willie's body (as Kip Lewis and John "Moon" Mullin agree in the video above is the correct way to form tackle), the rookie does lower his head and, by definiton, spear the wide receiver.

But Bostic was not flagged on the play. And as Mullin points out in the video, part of the officials' determination on whether to throw a flag or, later, fine a player is his intent. From what the video shows, Bostic was not seeking out Willie; the wideout grabbed a screen pass and made his way toward the middle of the field, where Bostic was pursuing in the same direction.

[GIF: Bostic lays huge hit on Chargers WR Willie]

Mullin said that while he thought Bostic's play was a great one and exactly how he'd like to see his linebackers play, he expected the fine because of the way the NFL is trying to keep its players safe. But if intent really is part of the equation, he offered up a potential resolution.

"What I would suggest then to the league is, you should be on the phone, talk to the official who is there," Mullin said, "because things sometimes look worse on film. and Jon Bostic was not a headhunter.

"I think somehow getting intent into the picture, which is what the official told me he could tell, might help a little bit."