- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2002

NFL officials ruled yesterday that the jarring, helmet-to-helmet hit Seattle Seahawks safety Marcus Robertson put on Washington Redskins receiver Darnerien McCants on Sunday was legal.

Robertson drew a personal foul penalty for the end-zone tackle that followed McCants' 11-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter of the Redskins' 14-3 victory. McCants was dazed by the hit, which snapped his head back on impact.

However, an NFL official said a review showed that the hit was clean. "Both feet were down, so he was not defenseless. Now, he's a runner," the official said.

McCants said that his status as a reserve rather than a high-profile starter may have been the difference in Robinson not being sanctioned.

"If I had a different number, if I had been known, it might have been a different situation," he said. "As soon as I landed I got smacked. It was one, two bam."

However, coach Steve Spurrier felt it was a close decision. "It was an in-betweener. If [a Redskin] had done that, I would have said it was OK," Spurrier said. "It was just a little late. He was just hustling."

The ruling was a surprise, considering the series of hefty fines levied leaguewide recently for hits that caused serious injuries.

Dallas Cowboys safety Darren Woodson was fined $75,000 for his helmet-on-helmet hit on Seahawks receiver Darrell Jackson, who had a seizure in the locker room and nearly died.

Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins was fined $50,000 for his hit on New York Giants receiver Ike Hilliard, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Houston Texans defensive tackle Gary Walker was fined $15,000 for his helmet-on-helmet hit on Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue recently issued a memo in which he threatened to fine or suspend coaches whose teams are fined repeatedly for illegal hits. The NFL reportedly is also identifying coaches it believes teach illegal tackling.

The Redskins' reaction on the NFL's tougher stance was mixed. Defensive players largely believe the NFL has overreacted in recent rulings. Many defenders believe that split-second decisions shouldn't be second-guessed by officials watching slow-motion videotape.

"They need to ease up," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "We don't like guys to get hurt, but it's not like we intentionally hurt people. When you're out there you don't think of that stuff, and then they want to punish you."

Safety Sam Shade, who has been fined twice for illegal hits during his eight-year career, said the game's physical nature can't be understated.

"The rule has always been if the guy gets a chance to hit you he's going to put it on you, so when you get a chance don't shortchange him," Shade said.

Davis doubtful

Running back Stephen Davis said he doesn't want to return too early from a sprained knee and jeopardize his long-term chances of playing this season. Davis appears unlikely to play against the Jaguars on Sunday, which would be the second straight game he has missed. The Redskins are considering resting him until they face the New York Giants on Nov.17.

"I want to be healthy and be able to help the team when I come back," Davis said. "I don't want to go out there and hurt it and only play two quarters."

Tickets wanted

Receiver Rod Gardner needs 30 more tickets to meet the needs of 70 friends and relatives who plan to attend his homecoming at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville on Sunday.

"We're strong in the stadium," he said. "The Redskins will have more fans than the Jaguars. That's a given."

The Jacksonville native sold merchandise for the Jaguars' 1995 debut as a franchise. The high school senior made "a couple dollars, but it wasn't for me. I didn't last too long. It was too hot for me."

Passing changes

Rod Gardner and Derrius Thompson remain the starting receivers, but Spurrier said newcomer Willie Jackson and McCants will get more chances on Sunday. However, Spurrier was upset about poor practices by McCants recently.

"I hope all this publicity's not getting to him," Spurrier said. "He didn't practice very well the last day or two. He's not as quick as he is in games. I had to get on him a little bit. Hopefully, we can get him right. He can do it all now. We just have to make him do it like a lot of our receivers."

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