NFL's Dean Blandino confirms penalty vs. 49ers was correct

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed Tuesday that San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ahmad Brooks' hit on New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was illegal and was rightly penalized as roughing the passer.

Speaking during his weekly segment on NFL Network's "Around the League Live," Blandino said Brooks violated the rule that protects the quarterback from shots to the head and neck.

"This was a big play in the game, and you can see Brooks come around the end," Blandino said. "He's going to hit Brees high in the head-neck area, and that's the key. The quarterback, in the act of passing or in that passing posture, is defenseless. You can't make forcible contact to the head or the neck area, even if the contact starts below the neck and rises up. If there's force to that contact, it's a foul."

Blandino said it doesn't matter that the contact originated at the shoulder area. Brooks' tackle ended around Brees' neck.

"That's why the flag was thrown for unnecessary roughness," he said. "... And the referee did make the announcement. He was specific -- forcible contact to the neck area of the quarterback, who in this posture, is defenseless. That's why it was the correct call."

According to the 2013 NFL Rulebook, the head and neck area is the key to this form of roughing the passer:

The call was praised and panned Monday by players, with former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis even offering to pay part of any fine Brooks might receive from the NFL.

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