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NFL confirms Julius Thomas' hit was illegal, decision on fine coming

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The hit Broncos tight end Julius Thomas laid on Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell was ruled an illegal chop block.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has ruled that Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas performed an illegal chop block on Sunday, with a fine likely to follow.

One of the hot-button issues that arose from Sunday's afternoon slate of games was the block Thomas laid on Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell. As a result of the hit, Campbell suffered an MCL sprain and missed most of the second half of his team's 41-20 defeat.

Arizona head coach Bruce Arians was particularly incensed, calling Thomas' hit "the dirtiest play I have seen in my 37 years of coaching football." Teammates like Larry Fitzgerald shared those views as well. Still, Thomas defended the play, promising that "being dirty is not a part of my game, and to intentionally hurt somebody is not something I would ever do."

Regardless, the NFL is the ultimate arbiter of the play's legality, and it has come to a decision. NFL spokesperson Michael Signoria explained the decision, via ProFootballTalk:

"The play was penalized because it was an illegal chop block, a violation of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 3 items c) and d) highlighted below," NFL spokesman Michael Signora said Monday.  "The officials threw the flag for the ‘reverse chop.'  Julius Thomas blocked Calais Campbell ‘in the area of the thigh or lower,' as specified by rule, and Ryan Clady engages Campbell high ‘simultaneously or immediately after the block' by Thomas, resulting in the penalty.

"The play also violated part c) of the rule, known as a ‘lure.'  While Thomas chops Campbell, Clady ‘confronts the defensive player in a pass-blocking posture but is not physically engaged with the defensive player.'

"A decision on a possible fine would be made later this week."

The only question at this point is how much money Thomas will pay. The tight end has a clean track record as far as fines go, so the hit to his pocket book should be minimal.