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The NFL has a double standard for defensive players

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The league says it's focused on player safety, but that seems mostly reserved for offensive players.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

With 12:09 left in the third quarter of the Bengals-Raiders game, Oakland backup quarterback Matt McGloin sailed a pass over Raiders tight end Mychal Rivera's head as he was running a route across the deep middle of the field. The ball ended up falling into the waiting arms of Bengals safety Reggie Nelson.

Rivera, seeing that Nelson was about to intercept the ball, kept running to try to break it up. In doing so he clearly made helmet-to-helmet contact with Nelson as he made the tackle while Nelson was still in the process of making the catch.

My question: why wasn't it called?

Don't get me wrong, I don't much expect for the NFL to look out for defensive players' health as much as they claim to look out for offensive players' health, but the hypocrisy encapsulated in that play is just ridiculous. I doubt the refs even gave a brief consideration to throwing a flag even though that collision was no less violent than the hits where defensive players get called for helmet-to-helmet contact with defenseless receivers.

Make no mistake, Nelson was just as defenseless because his focus was totally on catching the ball. He couldn't defend himself because he was using both hands to make the interception. At some point the NFL is going to at least have to at least try to show some sense of equity on these helmet-to-helmet calls. That is, if they ever want anyone to take them seriously about trying to make the game safer for everybody.

How is that a late hit?

At the 8:14 mark of the second quarter of the Lions' loss to the Chargers on Sunday, San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen ran a post route across the middle. The pass from Phillip Rivers was a little high, so Allen had to jump up and extend his arms upward to catch it. Rather than continue to stand tall leaving himself exposed to a big hit, Allen let his body go limp after catching the ball so he could get to the ground as quickly as possible in attempt to avoid a collision.

While all this was going on, Lions safety James Ihedigbo, who was lined up on the opposite side of the field from Allen before the snap of the football, was reading the play as it developed. He ended up getting a decent break on the pass, but couldn't get there in time to try to knock down or intercept the football. Instead, he decided to go for the tackle and in doing so lowered his aiming point and led with his shoulder as players are taught to do these days.

That unfortunate convergence of events ended up with Ihedigbo leading with his shoulder, but still hitting his target in the head area as Allen went to the ground. It was the very definition of a bang-bang play, and I don't honestly know how Ihedigbo could've avoided the contact at that point. Hey, at least he wasn't leading with his head, right?

Well the referee didn't see it that way and threw a flag for a personal foul.

That flag wasn't all that surprising, given the new rules about hits to the head and defenseless receivers. Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No. What was surprising was the explanation that followed. The ref turned on the microphone and proceeded to say that Ihedigbo was getting flagged for ... a late hit.

Ummm what?!

Nobody had made contact with Allen prior to Ihedigbo hitting him, so he was still a live, albeit defenseless, player at that point. If Ihedigbo doesn't at least touch him, then Allen could very well get up and take off running to gain more yards.

I have never claimed to be an expert on the rule book, but I really need someone to explain to me how that could possibly be the correct call here. Personal foul? Sure. Late hit? No friggin' way!