When the NFL fines or suspends a player, it issues a statement about what the player did to draw the fine or suspension. This week, the NFL needs to issue a statement to explain what a player did to avoid a fine or suspension.
The player in question is Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who was flagged for taking a shot at Jaguars center Brandon Linder‘s knee late in Seattle’s loss at Jacksonville on Sunday. It was Bennett who started an ugly chain of events that saw players on both teams flagged for personal fouls, two Seahawks ejected, and the potential for a crowd-control nightmare when Jaguars fans threw objects at Seattle’s Quinton Jefferson and Jefferson tried to go into the stands to confront them.
So why did Bennett, who started it all, get off scot-free?
NFL Media reported that the league bought Bennett’s explanation, as relayed by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, that Bennett was just trying to swipe the ball as Linder snapped it to Blake Bortles for the kneeldown at the end of the game.
That explanation is preposterous, and if the NFL actually accepted that explanation, then the NFL needs to say so — if for no other reason than so that the rest of us can understand, once and for all, that the people at the league office simply don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to finding any fair, reasonable and consistent standard for player discipline.
Bennett may have been initially attempting to swipe the ball the instant Linder snapped it to Bortles. But that doesn’t explain why Bennett then continued rolling into Linder’s knee, long after Bortles had taken the snap and kneeled down, as Linder attempted to get away from Bennett to protect himself from injury.
Two officials were standing on either side of Bennett as he rolled into Linder, and both of them threw their flags. If the NFL thinks Bennett was just trying to swipe the ball, then the NFL needs to explain what those two officials were looking at when they threw their flags.
The NFL also apparently thinks commentator Daryl Johnston was hallucinating when he described what Bennett did while FOX showed a replay. Johnston, a former NFL fullback who knows the difference between dirty play and clean play, was outraged as he described what Bennett was doing.
“Michael Bennett rolling into Brandon Linder — that’s what started everything, right there,” Johnston said. “And then he comes back and hits him again. So this tape is gonna be reviewed by the NFL. They didn’t get Michael Bennett out of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something from the league that comes down on Michael Bennett because that’s disrespect to an opponent on the field. There’s no place in this game for that.”
You know who else thinks it’s dirty to go after an opponent’s knee? Michael Bennett. Last year, after Bennett took a shot to the knee in a game against the Falcons, he was furious about it.
“Honestly, I think if you dive at someone else’s legs, you’re a little [expletive],” Bennett said. “If you are big in the NFL, you just line up and play — why you got to cut someone on the [expletive] play? I mean, I don’t know. That [expletive] is just stupid to me. Why cut somebody when you can just line up and win? I don’t know. I don’t come off the ball jumping at offensive linemen’s legs.’’
But now we know that Bennett does come off the ball jumping at offensive linemen’s legs. And the NFL lets him get away with it. The league needs to explain why.