Swearinger, Keller, the NFL Rulebook and the VP of Officiating: An open question

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

I am trying to type this up quickly on my lunch break so please forgive typos and grammatical errors. I wanted to bring up a point about the Swearinger-Keller hit this is bothering the heck out of me.

1. Dean Blandino, NFL's VP of Officiating said this (link here):

"Keller is considered a defenseless player. He's a receiver attempting to catch a pass," Blandino said. "He's protected in two ways: He's protected on hits to the head or neck area. And he's protected on hits to the body with the crown or full head hairline of the helmet.

"Those rules do not prohibit low contact like you see here. It is a legal hit with an unfortunate result, something that the competition committee will continue to look at as we do look at all player injuries during the season. But it is a legal hit."

Basically, he states that

a) Keller was a "defenseless player" and

b) it was not a penalty because Swearinger did not lead with the crown or hairline of the helmet.

2. The NFL Rulebook says this (link here):

(b) Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is:

(1) 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; or

(2) 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; or

(3) Illegally launching into a defenseless opponent. It is an illegal launch if a player

(a) leaves both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into his opponent, and

(b) uses any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/"hairline" parts) to initiate forcible contact against any part of his opponent’s body.

Both the Rulebook and Blandino agree Keller was a defenseless player. Blandino must be reading the play as part (2) of the rule where it does state top/crown or forehead of helmet. I read it was part (3) because Swearinger left his feet prior to contact to spring forward. Notice in (3-b) it states clearly USES ANY PART OF HIS HELMET TO INITIATE FORCIBLE CONTACT. Maybe Swearinger didn't illegally launch because his trajectory was more downward than upward. That is the only loophole I find that could possibly make this a legal hit.

3. Tony Gonzalez thinks it was dirty. (link here)

He's been in the league 16 years a tight end. His opinion holds some weight with me. Just wanted to throw this in as a veteran player's perspective.

I'd love to hear your opinions on this rule and why or why not the hit was legal.

(please let me know if you find major errors in the post and I will try to correct them as soon as possible)

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.