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NFL rules boss Jon Runyan defends decision to not fine Jadeveon Clowney

NFL rules boss Jon Runyan defends decision to not fine Jadeveon Clowney

Last Friday night, we learned of the NFL’s decision to not levy a fine to Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Carson Wentz in the wild-card round. 

It was a decision that left many Eagles fans flummoxed. 

After all, there was clearly helmet-to-helmet contact and the hit gave Wentz a concussion that knocked him out of the game and knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs. 

On Thursday morning, former Eagles right tackle and the NFL’s Vice President of Policy and Rules Administration Jon Runyan was on the WIP Morning Show to talk about his decision to not fine Clowney. Angelo Cataldi first asked Runyan if he expected a lot of backlash in Philadelphia because of the decision: 

“Well, when the ringleader is an old white guy on the radio sounding like a politician spewing stuff that doesn’t have a lot of fact-base on it, yeah, you can get there. … You got quiet all of a sudden.”

OK! Off and running! 

After that jab (done in jest?) Runyan actually did his best to explain his reasoning for not fining Clowney, but in the process, admitted it was close. 

Runyan first outlined all the reasons he thought the play definitely didn’t deserve a fine: 

• “He’s not a defenseless player because he’s not catching a pass and he’s a runner so he doesn’t have the roughing the passer protection.”

• “It wasn’t a leg-whip, it’s not out of bounds, he’s not blocking someone out of bounds, his forward progress had not been stopped, he had not slid feet first. He was not on the ground.”

• “The next one is unnecessary running, diving, throwing your body against a player who was out of the play or should not have reasonably anticipated contact.”

Runyan doesn’t believe Clowney committed any of those sins. 

Then Runyan made an admission that there was one area where Clowney almost earned a fine: The rulebook outlaws using the helmet or facemask to ram, butt or spear an opponent. Runyan made it a point to note that incidental contact doesn’t warrant a fine; that was his defense in the decision. 

It’s a decision that former VP of Officiating Mike Pereira was interested to find out when he was on WIP back on Jan. 7 and called the hit “unnecessary and forceful.”

Runyan clearly disagreed. Or he at least disagreed with the assessment that the hit deserved a fine. 

“So when you go back and look at this play, it is really, really close,” Runyan said. “Carson’s elbow is still off the ground as Clowney’s arm … the first thing that contacts Wentz is Clowney’s arm to his hip and lower back area and then his shoulder rolls in and then his helmet goes in.”

Runyan says that in the process of making a tackle on a player who was not defenseless and not giving himself up, Clowney’s helmet incidentally made contact with Wentz’s. Right or wrong, that was the decision from the league. 

So basically, we’re back to where we started with the ruling on the field. The referee after the game said the contact was deemed incidental and Runyan’s ruling backed that initial decision. 

You can watch the play yourself and Zapruder it to figure out which contact happens first. 

For what it’s worth, Runyan said he also doesn’t take into account intent or past history of a player when assessing whether or not a hit is worthy of a fine. 

“I’m telling you it’s right on the line,” Runyan said. “You guys watch how I played, I kind of know where the line is and that’s kind of why I have this job. It’s right on the line. 

“It’s like proving a legal case. I have to have one of these rules violated blatantly to rise to that level.”

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Chris Long: Players calling Carson Wentz injury-prone 'should be ashamed'

Chris Long: Players calling Carson Wentz injury-prone 'should be ashamed'

Former Eagles lineman and Super Bowl champion Chris Long spent Wednesday in Center City, at an event with the Men's Warehouse on Chestnut Street. Long hasn't shied away from discussing NFL topics du jour since his retirement, including Carson Wentz's crushing head injury against the Seahawks.

Long defended Wentz from hot takes online during Sunday's game, and on Wednesday he came armed with more thoughts about Carson Wentz's injury in conversation with NBC Sports Philadelphia's Marc Farzetta:

I just think it was kind of a cheap shot, and a shortcut, for media members trying to make hay,” Long said. “Down-talking a dude who just got drilled in the back of the head, with only the ground to stop the force, by a 280-pound man. Some of them played, and I think the guys that played should be ashamed of themselves. Because - you talk about a guy's battle back from injury, he's carried the team the last month of the season, and to bring up a pattern of injury? Sure, Carson has an injury history, but that concussion has nothing to do with any pattern.

It's hard to argue with Long here. Former players like Torry Holt and Brandon Stokely ran wild with Wentz's injury Sunday night, drawing connections that didn't exist. Stokely, whose career ended amidst a rash of injuries which included a concussion, attempting to call Wentz's durability into question over a random hit seemed particularly misplaced.

It doesn't seem, however, like the hit - which the NFL's former VP of officiating called 'a cheap shot', like Long - will cost Jadeveon Clowney, who made contact with Wentz's head on the play. The league said it was going to evaluate the play for a potential fine, but Clowney said Thursday afternoon he hadn't heard from the league about any potential punishment.

The Seahawks play the Packers on Sunday. We'll see if Long has more takes during the game. Eagles fans certainly will.

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NFL’s former VP of officiating calls Clowney hit ‘a cheap shot'

NFL’s former VP of officiating calls Clowney hit ‘a cheap shot'

If you think the Jadeveon Clowney hit that knocked Carson Wentz out of the Eagles’ playoff game on Sunday was a cheap shot, you’re not alone. 

FOX rules analyst and former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira was on 94WIP on Tuesday and he agrees with you. 

Here’s what Pereira said about the play: 

I think it was a cheap shot. And the reason that I base it on that is on regular speed video and not slow motion. … I mean, he takes a shot. Listen, I don’t think Clowney tried to hurt anybody but I do think he tried to punish him. That was my opinion of the play. Needlessly punish him. 

And for those who don’t think it was cheap, then I would say I respect your opinion, but do me a favor and go back and look at it in real time, the live shot, which seldom do the networks go back and show. Some of them don’t even record the original line feed. But go back and look at that and tell me it was not necessary. To me, unnecessary equates to cheap. That’s my view on the play. 

Pereira said he thinks the play should have resulted in a 15-yard penalty for hitting a defenseless player. 

He explained that, sure, Wentz loses certain protections as a quarterback when he becomes a runner. But Pereira argued that Wentz was going to the ground when Clowney hit him and Wentz was “absolutely” defenseless at that point. 

“I mean, Wentz is heading to the ground, he actually hit the ground about the same time as the contact occurs,” Pereira said. “You could look at it and say, you could make it somewhat similar to a quarterback giving himself up. The defender, talking about Clowney here, is beginning to start to make the tackle. And so you can say if he hit him in the body, if he hit him in the back, he would be OK. But as a defenseless player, since he’s on his way to the ground or on the ground, you have to stay away from the head or neck area.”

NFL Network on Tuesday reported that the league won’t suspend Clowney for the hit but is looking into the possibility of a fine.

Pereira is very interested to see if the NFL fines Clowney but thinks there’s a good chance it doesn’t because the refs are already on record saying it shouldn’t have been a penalty. 

Referee Shawn Smith told a pool reporter after the game there was not a penalty called because they deemed the contact “incidental.”

Pereira on Tuesday wasn’t buying that. He called the hit “unnecessary and forceful.” 

You can listen to the full interview here: 

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