Bostic hit redux: Bring 'intent' into the discussion

Bostic hit redux: Bring 'intent' into the discussion
August 26, 2013, 9:30 am
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Old news here. But not really.

It seems that another shoe somehow should be falling or at least tapping its toe in the matter of Bears linebacker Jonathan Bostic and his hit on San Diego Chargers receiver Mike Willie.

And it should fall in Bostic’s favor, not this time but the next.

Bostic leveled Willie as the wideout was getting the ball tucked away. Bostic wasn’t penalized but he was fined $21,000, although he won’t pay that full amount just because he doesn’t make all that much just yet.

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At the time I was of two minds. I thought the hit was an outstanding bit of tackling, even more notable because of Bostic’s closing speed, not the ferocity. And I said at the time that he would be fined.

The reasons aren’t important. What the NFL could do to improve its handling of these situations is.

The roots here go back a couple of years to a training-camp session in Bourbonnais in which a team of officials, after meeting with players and coaches to review rule changes and enforcement, open the information up to the media, complete with the same videos used for illustration purposes with the players.

Afterwards, one official and I talked over a couple of specifics of a blow, and he said something that stuck with me: “Oh yeah,” he said, “most of the time we can tell ‘intent’ on these things.”

He wasn’t professing to be a mind-reader. His point was that professionals like himself didn’t have to be to know what (besides the hittee) was going down.

But here’s the problem: Game officials are not consulted on fines/punishments being handed out.

They should be.

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Flags are not thrown in instances not because officials didn’t see what happened. It’s because they do.

This isn’t to excuse or defend improper hits, particularly in situations where using the head or crown of the helmet stands to perhaps more damage long-term to the hitter than to the target.

But Bostic is not Jack Tatum or James Harrison or a headhunting injury-seeker at all for that matter. He made what appeared at the time and even afterwards to be a good hit, or at worst one that inadvertently involved too much helmet to a defenseless player.

And Merton Hanks, who hands out the ensuing discipline, was himself a player, a defensive player in fact.

But a question would be whether the official on the scene, if asked, would have been able to add an “intent” perspective and either lessen the fine or perhaps recommend a warning letter, if such a thing exists.

Hanks and staff checking with the appropriate game official for an opinion doesn’t blur the lines of authority. And allowing for “intent” doesn’t cloud the situation. If the official isn’t sure, he says so. But he’s boots-on-the-ground and his perspective on intent should count.

Maybe Bostic still draws a fine. But giving the player another “voice” in the room just seems worth a phone call to see that the right call ultimately is made.