Les Bowen: The bottom line: Eagles' Reid supports NFL on safety

Andy Reid says it's 'a learning period' for the league in effort to eliminate dangerous hits.
Andy Reid says it's 'a learning period' for the league in effort to eliminate dangerous hits.
Posted: November 09, 2010

The NFL is not going to hell in a handbasket, Andy Reid contended yesterday.

At his day-after news conference, the Eagles' coach interrupted a lengthy dissection of the unnecessary roughness penalty assessed when safeties Quintin Mikell and Kurt Coleman slammed into Colts receiver Austin Collie to deliver this bulletin:

"I think it will all get worked out. I don't think it's going to change the game a lick, as far as ... the hard hitting," Reid said. "I just think that once it's all defined and we have enough data in the base here that we can go back and look at," interpretations will settle down, become more consistent. "I think this is a learning period right now."

That doesn't mean Reid agrees with the call. If you saw the back page of yesterday's Daily News, you know that ref Carl Cheffers and back judge Todd Prukop were 0-for-2 in their postgame explanations to a pool reporter of why Coleman got 15 yards. In the photo, Collie has the ball tucked into his belly and is running with it, both feet under him as he is about to be hit on each shoulder by Mikell and Coleman. So Collie is not a "defenseless receiver" but a ballcarrier, and if you've watched the replay, you know Prukop's contention that Coleman "makes contact with the shoulder to the back of the helmet of the receiver" also is incorrect. Coleman does bang helmets with Collie, which is why Coleman said yesterday he supposes the call was correct, though he considers the hit "a freak accident."

The NFL at least partly defused the situation yesterday afternoon by announcing that Coleman will not be fined.

Well before that became clear, Reid nudged his questioners toward the larger picture, which is those studies we keep reading about, of all the bad stuff going on in the brains of former football players. The officiating crew's interpretation might have been fanciful, Reid seemed to be saying, but the intent was good, and at the end of the day, that intent outweighs the injustice of a questionable call that fuels a touchdown drive.

That seemed to be part of what the NFL was saying in its statement, which recounted how Collie was hit legally by Mikell and knocked into Coleman, causing helmet-to-helmet contact. For that reason, the league said, there would be no fine, though the officiating crew acted correctly because "officials have been instructed to err on the side of player safety, and when in doubt, will penalize in situations such as this for unnecessary roughness."

The Collie call and the late-game, fourth-down call when Trent Cole brushed Peyton Manning's helmet with his hand could have cost the Eagles a crucial win, but even so, the NFL has to do what it can to avoid that horrible spectacle we witnessed yet again Sunday - the medical personnel crouched on the field for 10 minutes, the back board out, then the player strapped to a stretcher. Or the spectacle being played out in the living rooms of former players like ex-Eagle Kevin Turner, whose ALS could be related to head trauma he suffered as a fullback.

Eventually, the league will get this right, or closer to right, Reid was saying yesterday, and in the meantime, the sorting-out process has to be endured. Infuriating, sure, but there is no rational alternative.

There was no way this collision could have been avoided, Reid agreed, but the league must dive into these murky waters.

"If the player asked me this I'd have to tell them ... I just don't see what they could have done different. But again, I completely understand and I'm behind what the league's trying to do," Reid said. "I think for the players' sake down the road, we're kind of in a new territory here, and we're learning as we go ... And some things will have to change."

DEVELOPING STORY LINES

-- As Andy Reid noted, the Eagles got a big effort out of left tackle Jason Peters, even if he did false start once. Peters, coming back from Oct. 14 knee surgery, held Dwight Freeney in check, to the tune of two total tackles, no sacks, no hurries. Winston Justice had a tougher time on the other side with Robert Mathis, who had a sack and a hurry, and forced Justice to take him down, nullifying a 56-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Brent Celek.

-- The red-zone trouble was supposed to disappear when Michael Vick returned, but it was a big part of keeping Sunday's game close. Three times in the first half, the Eagles rolled to first downs inside the Indianapolis 10 but settled for field goals. All that speedy, spread-the-field, misdirection stuff works better when there's field to work with.

-- If you ask me, we're still not seeing the 2008-level Stew Bradley. That guy got off blocks way better. Strong game Sunday for Ernie Sims, though.

-- At the midway point, if you look back at the eight games the Birds have played, you could argue that if a few plays had gone their way, they could be 7-1. (The Packers loss, you might need more than a few plays.) But if a few more plays had gone the other way, the Eagles could be 2-6. (Atlanta and Jacksonville are the only teams they've put away.)

OBSCURE STAT

With the Colts vanquished, Tennessee becomes the only NFL team Andy Reid has never defeated.

WHO KNEW?

Three months ago, that Michael Vick would become the starter and have a 105.3 passer rating with no interceptions at midseason?

EXTRA POINT

Keenan Clayton hadn't played since preseason, but the speedy fourth-round rookie from Oklahoma saw action Sunday both at linebacker and safety, which gives the Eagles some flexibility going forward, with Nate Allen unlikely to play this week because of that neck injury. Clayton, 6-1, 229, played both spots for the Sooners.

Andy Reid said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott "did a real nice job with Keenan ... He had different looks from different places with Keenan, kind of moved him all around ... blitzed him from different spots."

Reid said Clayton "showed us a little something. It didn't seem to be too big for him. He came in and he was excited to play, did a good job on special teams, did a good job during the game."

Clayton was called for roughing Colts punter Pat McAfee, whose backside brushed Clayton as he came down, after Clayton nearly blocked a McAfee punt.

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