Preseason week one gave us our first player ejection of the 2019 season and it came on a hit by 49ers safety Adrian Colbert in the third quarter of their preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. Colbert hit receiver Cedrick Wilson coming down the seam on a slant route as a pass from quarterback Mike White sailed over his head.
Colbert was initially flagged for a 15 yard penalty for hit on a defenseless receiver, in this case Colbert hit Wilson high in the upper chest/neck area as the pass sailed over Wilson’s head.
Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact is lower than the player’s neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him
Starting this season, the Art McNally Game Day Central — the replay hub — will weigh in and interject in all potential cases where there could be an ejection. As Football Zebras writer Mark Schultz explains, “Officiating vice president Al Riveron and his staff in New York would look at the footage and could instruct the crew to eject a player they missed, confirm an ejection, or correct the crew if they misidentified a player and wrongly sent him to the showers.”
Last season the review only extended to non-football acts such as incidents occurring after the whistle. In the case of Colbert’s hit last night, he was initially flagged, as can be heard above. After a few moments, it appears that Riveron called in the ejection after reviewing the play in replay central. Although he was flagged for an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver, the more likely call from Riveron was an ejection under rule 12-2-10, illegal use of the helmet as it’s clear that Colbert came in leading with his helmet. Hitting with the helmet anywhere on a player’s body is considered illegal.
Expansion of the rule was in reaction to hits like the one that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was suspended (but not ejected) for in a late season game against Buffalo in 2017. Last season there were 21 player ejections including the preseason.