The NFL is fining Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt for an attempted sack in which he lunged at the lower body of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
According to ESPN, the fine is worth $20,054. The play came in Sunday’s 41-17 Steelers victory against the Falcons.
During the play, Watt came off the right edge and swiped at Ryan’s legs, just grazing them. By the time Watt made contact, Ryan had gotten rid of the ball. After the contact was made, Ryan stumbled to the ground but was not injured.
The NFL has highlighted points of emphasis on hits made against quarterbacks, enforcing penalties and discipline when defenders use their body weight to land on passers when taking them to the ground, as well as hits that target their legs and lower body.
The shift in enforcement is intended to prevent long-term injuries to the quarterbacks, such as knee ligament tears.
According to language in the NFL rulebook: “A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him.”
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Watt’s brother, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, defended the play on social media.
“$20,000 for this?!?!?!” J.J. Watt wrote in a message posted to his verified Twitter account, and “That is insanity” in another.
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