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NewsRoundtable: Was Chris Baker ejected in error?

Roundtable: Was Chris Baker ejected in error?

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The fight in the Week 3 game in Philadelphia has lingering questions, despite our multiple-point breakdown of the play, and it swirls around the illegal hit called on Washington defensive lineman Chris Baker.

Troy Vincent, the first-season executive vice president of football operations, addressed the hit earlier this week. “You can talk about whether it might fall under unsportsmanlike conduct,” Vincent told the Washington Post. In reality, this would fall under the rules of unnecessary roughness, not unsportsmanlike conduct. (Rookie mistake, we’ll allow it.)

Vincent continues, “But when you know the rule and you look at the play, he didn’t hit him in the head. He didn’t hit him in the neck. We looked at it. I looked at it very closely.”

Former officiating supervisor Larry Upson analyzed the play for Football Zebras. He said, “If I’m positioned where the referee is, I’m probably throwing the flag. But, when I saw this on TV, I immediately said, ‘That’s not a foul.'”

Foles, on the change of possession, has the protections of a player in a defenseless posture. That protection makes forcible blows to Foles’ head or neck area illegal. But does the quarterback still have other protections given his position?

“When a quarterback or a kicker starts to make a move towards the play [an interception return or kick return], he is fair game,” Upson said.

Jim Daopoulos, a former NFL officiating supervisor as well, agrees. He said, “This is one of those situations where the rule says it’s not a foul. But the referee, he’s got the quarterback, and he is responsible for his safety. So maybe the league office ‘supports’ the call [grading it neither correct nor incorrect, based on the circumstances], but it is not a foul.”

Baker was ejected from the game on that play, and the foul that was announced was his hit to the quarterback. Baker was also seen yanking on the facemask of an opponent in the ensuing fracas. But the question is, the penalty call was for the hit that the league office says was legal, so was Baker thrown out of the game in error?

The officials did not have to call a second penalty on Baker, because it would have offset anyway with the foul by the Eagles. “But, it’s a matter of perception,” said Upson. “Now, people think Baker was thrown out for a hit on the quarterback.” Upson said the hit doesn’t elevate to an ejection “unless it’s a really egregious hit, then you have grounds to throw him out of the game.”

Baker was fined $8,268 by Vincent, indicating that the league office likely agreed there was an ejectable offense in the fight.

Image: File photo via Washington Redskins

Ben Austro
Ben Austro

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref’s Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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2 thoughts on “Roundtable: Was Chris Baker ejected in error?

  1. $8268 is the same fine that Quentin Quarless (of Green Bay) got for ripping Sheldon Richardson’s helmet off by the facemask in his team’s week two matchup against the Jets. Quarless was not ejected, although Mohammed Wilkerson (of NY) was ejected for fighting on the other side of the field. (Richardson and Wilkerson both received unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, although since no Green Bay player did, only Wilkerson’s penalty was enforced.)

    Based on these plays, It seems like pulling an opposing player’s helmet off is not supposed to be an ejectable offense and is dealt with via post-game fines. (Fun fact: a player removing HIS OWN helmet is subject to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but removing someone else’s is not punished on the field. Go figure.)

    What happened here is pretty simple. The referee said that he ejected Baker for a dirty hit. Then the league said that the hit was clean, and gave Baker the same fine for conduct during the fight as they gave a player for doing essentially what Baker did during a fight the week before.

    Except for the “dirty hit,” Baker and Quarless’s actions were pretty similar. Their punishments would have been the same except for the ejection, which the referee said was for the “dirty hit.” Since the league says the hit was clean, I don’t see how you can come to any conclusion other than that Chris Baker should not have been ejected.

  2. You make a good point, but that’s why Larry said this is a problem of perception. He believed that Baker should have been ejected. Also remember that football operations (who issue fines) and the officiating department work together, the fines assessed for infractions are in some ways separate from the officiating department’s assessment for right/wrong calls.

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