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Disciplinary Action

Runaway locomotive hit on fair catch spawns ejection, brawl, maybe suspension



Week 6: Panthers at Buccaneers

Dante Wesley of the Panthers was ejected for a flagrant hit on kick returner Clifton Smith of the Buccaneers. Smith called for a fair catch, and Wesley flattened him to the turf long before the ball even got there. It was penalized as both fair-catch interference and a personal foul, however the fair-catch signal is irrelevant in the fact that this was a malicious hit on a defenseless receiver (video). Smith appeared to be knocked unconscious by the hit.

The ball immediately bounced out of bounds, allowing for a bench-clearing conference to develop around Wesley. The officials indicated multiple post-play penalties by throwing hats (to indicate a second penalty after his flag had been thrown), however all of these penalties were picked up.

Wesley will certainly be fined heavily for the hit, and we think that a suspension is likely. The last suspension for an on-field incident was Elbert Mack of the Buccaneers, who laid a helmet-to-helmet hit on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. A suspension announcement would be likely on Tuesday.

As for the others involved in the brawl after the play, the league will be examining the videotape for those—particularly those who came off the sideline—to mete out fines later in the week.

John Parry was the referee.

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)