"That contact propelled Collie toward [Coleman], causing Coleman to make helmet-to-helmet contact with Collie. Because the helmet-to-helmet contact was a result of Collie being driven toward Coleman by Mikell's legal hit, there will be no fine for this action," the league wrote in a statement.
Coleman appeared to lead with his shoulder and initially strike Collie's shoulder, a legal play. Their helmets collided after he made his initial contact. The NFL is trying to discourage hits to the head, though, and appears to want stern enforcement to force players to try to avoid head shots on defenseless players. The league has stressed protecting wide receivers who are in the act of making a catch and unable to protect themselves.
"Though there will be no fine issued in this instance, the play was properly officiated. 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 league said.
The NFL has fined others, including Eagles linebacker Ernie Sims, $50,000 or more for hits deemed illegal.
Coleman, who as a rookie seventh-round draft pick is on the low end of the NFL pay scale, said he understood the referees' call.
"I could see how the refs went through the play, because they were going by the rule. It was just a freak accident the way it all went down," Coleman told reporters before word came down that there would be no fine. "They have a harder time out there than anybody."
For Coleman, the sight of Collie laying motionless on the field brought back frightening memories. As a freshman at Ohio State, he made a routine tackle that left a teammate paralyzed.
"I kind of had a little bit of a flashback to my freshman year in college, but I didn't want to think that negatively," Coleman said Monday. He said he prayed for Collie as the receiver lay on the ground.
Coleman's play marked the second consecutive game that an Eagle came under review due to the NFL's heightened scrutiny of dangerous hits. In their last game, Sims hit Titans running back Chris Johnson in the head - only for that play to be ruled legal - but was later fined for a far less noticed shot to wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins.
Head coach Andy Reid saw both sides of the issue, defending Coleman, but also the NFL's approach to safety.
"The officials are learning on the go here, so I'm not going to sit up here and bash anybody," Reid said. But asked what else Coleman could have done in that situation, he said, "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 noted that the rules against hitting receivers in the head were on the books before the season. Enforcement is what has changed. Still, Reid and other Eagles were furious about the penalty against Coleman when it happened. The call set up a Colts touchdown.
"In the heat of the battle, I can't sit here and tell you that I'm the calmest guy in the world when I see those things," Reid said. "But when you step back and you look at it, I understand the big picture of things. . . . The end result is, I know the league's heading in the right direction with it."
Reid seemed to have more problem with an unnecessary roughness penalty in the fourth quarter after defensive end Trent Cole grazed Manning's helmet with his hand. The penalty wiped out what would have been a game-sealing sack and fumble. Reid slyly referred to an ESPN ad Manning once did, in which he and his brother Eli push, kick and flick each other like a pair of young sibling rivals.
"In some cases I'd say, like, if I was looking at a commercial and one brother hit another brother in the back of the head harder than what he was hit in the game, I probably wouldn't call it," Reid said.
See Andy Reid compete at age 13 in the 1971 Punt, Pass & Kick event at http://go.philly.com/puntpasskick.
Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.