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Football Zebras
2019Hit on Kalif Raymond was legal, despite media outrage

Hit on Kalif Raymond was legal, despite media outrage

The media screamed about a “blatant” (aren’t they always?) missed hit on the Titans Kalif Raymond. After Raymond completed his catch, defender C.J. Gardner-Johnson delivered a hard hit on Raymond, forcing a fumble and New Orleans Saints recovery and long return (video).

Yes, it was a hard hit. Yes,, Raymond was unfortunately hurt on the play, and yes, it was at a pivotal moment in the game.

And, the play was legal.

Under the NFL rule interpretations, there cannot be a hit to a defenseless receiver penalty, after the receiver completes the catch process (this extends to players going to the ground under the old catch rule). Under the catch interpretation, Raymond had completed the process of the catch and by definition has the ability to ward off or brace for contact. Video shows him lowering his head preparing for contact and/or fight for more yardage.

You could also make an argument that Gardner-Johnson was trying to adjust his target to the side so as not to deliver a blow to the head.

Also, instant replay reviewed the play to see if it was a fumble or incomplete pass. The call remained a catch and fumble. Replay wasn’t able to order the officiating crew to drop a flag if officials in New York deemed Gardner-Johnson’s hit was illegal. However, by ruling a catch, it essentially confirms there cannot be a defenseless receiver hit.

Not every hit to the head is a foul, even if the hit results in injury.

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Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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3 thoughts on “Hit on Kalif Raymond was legal, despite media outrage

  1. “Not every hit to the head is a foul, even if the hit results in injury.”

    Isn’t that part of the problem? The NFL drones on about “caring” about player safety. They institute harsher penalties (ejections) for such actions in a game, they “tweak” what is and isn’t a catch and their reasoning seems fluid in replay, but when a player is hit in the head with a shoulder THIS time: legal.

    The NHL has a similar problem with its “no head shots” rule but players can stand there and punch each other in the face. Along with their inconsistent punishments for such incidents.

    That’s not say this hit isn’t legal under “the NFL rule interpretations”, just that as fans we see a lack of consistency. Many will attribute that to “bang bang” plays and a lack of experience by the fans that the officials have. But it still leads to confusion.

    And leading off the story about with: “The media screamed about a “blatant” (aren’t they always?) missed hit on the Titans Kalif Raymond.” leads one to take your take as more nose in the air, what do the masses know “bias” from an alleged unbiased site.

  2. So you say that he doesn’t get protection for the hit and yet an article that is linked to the bottom of this story explicitly says that a receiver in a vulnerable position still gets the defenceless receiver protection provisions. Surely Raymond was in a vulnerable position when the contact with his head occurred a fraction of a second after the “completion” of the catch (which I still don’t see how he completed the catch as the contact with his head that knocked him unconscious occurred before his third step or any other kind of “football move” occurred, and even though the ball was still “in his hands” when his third foot hit the ground he had already been struck by the illegal helmet hit)

  3. Gardner-Johnson has also been fined for the unnecessary roughness hit on Raymond which now conclusively makes your article 100% incorrect and it was not a legal hit whatsoever.

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