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Roundtable: Was Chris Baker ejected in error?

Washington defensive lineman Chris Baker was ejected Sunday, but his penalty should not have been called. Was the ejection in error?



WAS chris_baker

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 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)