In last week's matchup with Arizona, Kam Chancellor delivered a big hit on Cardinals' tight end Todd Heap during an interception by Earl Thomas that was ultimately called back. Chancellor was flagged for unnecessary roughness and it sparked some jawing and tension between the two teams. Arizona players felt that it was a cheap shot but Seattle players felt that the hit was within the confines of the rules and rallied around their 2nd year safety, "Bam Bam" Kam Chancellor.
After the game, Pete Carroll too backed his safety, saying "It was as clean a hit as you can get."
The play created a bit of controversy, -- some claiming it was a cheap shot, some bemoaning the NFL's apparent effort to take these big hits out of the game. ESPN's Mike Sando looked at the play closely, noting:
According to the NFL rulebook, "A player who receives a 'blindside' block when the blocker is moving toward his own endline and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side" qualifies as a defenseless player. Rules prevent contact against defenseless players along these lines:
-- "Forcibly hitting the defenseless player's head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him;
-- "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.
Sando came to a conclusion:
Carroll appears to be right. I can't imagine what officials could have instructed Chancellor to do differently.
Heap was taking an angle on Seahawks safety Earl Thomas during Thomas' interception return. Heap's head was turned back to Thomas, who had not yet passed him, when Chancellor drove his shoulder into Heap's shoulder area, flattening him. Chancellor did not launch himself through the air at Heap. He did not strike Heap in the head or neck area.
Chancellor's hit would have been outside the rules had he struck Heap in the head or neck area. Television replays appeared to show Chancellor striking Heap in the shoulder and upper-chest area, but I could not tell for certain. The league consults coaches' video from angles unavailable to TV viewers. Those apparently vindicated Chancellor.
As Mike Sando pointed out, if a fine had been levied, it would have supported referee Al Riveron's decision to throw a flag on the play. With no fine, the NFL would essentially be backing up Pete Carroll's assertion that it was a clean hit.
Because no fine was sent down it looks like the NFL brass determined it was a clean block. Furthermore, thankfully, it looks like Todd Heap was ok after taking the hit.
This means we can all watch it multiple times, groan, gasp, and high-five because we all love the violence and awesomeness of football so much!
Now let's see that again, in a super slow-mo instant replay.