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Was Rodgers-Cromartie hard hit a flag test?

Steelers at Eagles

1st Qtr | 1:12 | Steelers 3-0 | Steelers ball | 3rd & 16 @ PIT 24 | video

Eagles safety Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will obviously be the first player lined up to pay at the NFL disciplinary fine window.

In the first quarter, Rodgers-Cromartie laid a hit on Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich that, while only one penalty, was an unnecessary roughness penalty to the third degree. First offense, Rodgers-Cromartie lead with and lowered his helmet aimed at Leftwich’s headgear. Secondly, Rodgers-Cromartie launched himself at Leftwich, which tends to cost tens of thousands of dollars more in fines. Finally, Leftwich was obviously in a defenseless posture, having just thrown the ball, leaving his body open which maximized the impact.

There is speculation that Rodgers-Cromartie will be suspended, but unless there was an unannounced change of course, this will lead to a heavy fine and no suspension. Last season, a hit administered by Falcons safety Dunta Robinson was thought to be an obvious suspension, but netted the higher fine of $40,000 (not only because of its viciousness, but also as a second offense) and no benching. Rodgers-Cromartie likely would face something around $21,000.

But this could have also been a test. If the covering official is one of your seasoned veterans — an Ed Hochuli or a Walt Anderson or a Walt Coleman — does Rodgers-Cromartie make that hit? Or did Rodgers-Cromartie think he could get away with one with a Division III referee in the offensive backfield? Referee Mike Shepherd did notice, although it would have been a bold move to eject the player for the hit. And the league office noticed, which will make the first fine of the year a large one.

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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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3 thoughts on “Was Rodgers-Cromartie hard hit a flag test?

  1. Great gutsy call by referee substitute Mike Shepherd. Cromartie deserves whatever fine he gets from the league. Give the substitute refs a few more reps and they will be a formidable challenge to the regular officials. I confess that I was Mr. Shepherd’s umpire on his Div III college crew for a couple of years.

  2. Great call Mike!! Look like you’ve doing the NFL for years. Who needs the veterans.

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