In Week 7, we saw two NFL quarterbacks brutally hit in the head by opposing defenders. Both hits could have resulted in serious injuries, but there were no penalties issued by the officials in either situation.
In the Browns vs. Buccaneers game, Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield was running with the ball and began to slide when Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead lowered his head to make the tackle. In the Cowboys vs. Washington game, quarterback Dak Prescott was running out of bounds with the ball when Washington cornerback Greg Stroman lowered his shoulder to tackle the quarterback.
Mayfield was able to walk away unharmed, but Prescott was immediately evaluated. He did return moments later as the doctors determined he was not concussed.
In both of these situations, officials didn’t call a targeting penalty because they decided both quarterbacks were not “defenseless” players. But it’s pretty obvious that Prescott was out of bounds when hit, and Mayfield already started to slide when Whitehead’s hit to his head was delivered.
If the hits happened when Prescott or Mayfield were throwing the ball, the plays would have resulted in 15-yard penalties.
ESPN reported that the NFL knows Whitehead should have gotten penalized for his hit on Mayfield, who said he had “no words” when the flag was picked up.
“I thought that’s why they put the rule in,” Mayfield said.
On Friday, the NFL admitted it got the call wrong with the hit to Mayfield’s head.
“That is a foul for two reasons. No. 1: lowering your head to initiate contact. And No. 2: forcible contact to a quarterback who has given himself up in the head or neck area.”
The NFL claims to care about player safety, but it sure doesn’t seem like that’s actually the case when hits like these aren’t penalized on the spot.