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NFL fines Colts' Brackett $35K for blind-side hit on Titans' Amato

NEW YORK -- The NFL fined Indianapolis Colts linebacker Gary Brackett $35,000 on Friday for his hit on Tennessee Titans long snapper Ken Amato during last Sunday's regular-season finale.

Brackett was called for an illegal blind-side block on Amato as the linebacker ran toward the Colts' goal line and hit the long snapper from the side in springing Antoine Bethea for a return off a missed field-goal attempt. Titans coach Jeff Fisher called the hit "vicious" and said it cracked Amato's helmet.

Brackett now has been fined three times this season for illegal hits.

The Colts practiced Friday in preparation for Saturday's wild-card playoff game against the New York Jets, but there was no media availability.

Earlier this week, Brackett defended the play, saying: "I don't think it was malicious at all. I think it was just a football play, and I still think I hit him with my shoulder first and the head was secondary."

The NFL announced several other fines Friday:

» Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was docked $15,000 for striking Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson in the face after a play.

Suggs punched Simpson after being driven to the ground by offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and having his helmet knocked off. Simpson was handing Suggs his helmet when he got punched. Suggs wasn't penalized on the play.

Suggs acknowledged hitting Simpson after Sunday's game and expressed relief that the referees didn't see it, saying, "Luckily, I got away with one."

» New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork was fined $10,000 for roughing Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne, whom he drove into the ground. For the same game, Dolphins defensive end Paul Soliai was fined $10,000 for roughing Brian Hoyer, hitting the New England Patriots' quarterback in the head and neck area.

» Oakland Raiders defensive lineman John Henderson was fined $7,500 for roughing Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel by slamming him to the ground.

As for Brackett's hit, the NFL's competition committee approved the blocking rule in March 2009, partially as a result of a hit that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward made against Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers. Rivers broke his jaw on the play. It is considered illegal if the blocker hits another player in the head or neck area with the helmet, forearm or shoulder.

Filling in for his father, Bill Polian, on a weekly radio show Monday night, Colts vice president and general manager Chris Polian said he believed it was the first time the penalty had been called. He didn't argue the call.

Clearly, Fisher, who serves on the competition committee, thought officials got it right.

"It was probably one of the most vicious hits that I've ever seen, and then to come in (Monday) morning and have the equipment guys bring his helmet to me and the helmet was cracked. You can imagine the impact," Fisher said earlier this week.

Fisher called the hit unnecessary.

League officials have been imposing stiffer punishments for hits to the head or neck area this season. They have regularly announced fines and have threatened suspensions for habitual offenders.

But no players have yet been suspended, and the Colts didn't expect Brackett to be the first.

"I think our league is fair and equitable," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said the day after the game. "They will look at it and make a determination on what should be done and we'll adjust to whatever that is. If we do not agree with it, we will appeal."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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