- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Washington Redskins nose tackle Chris Baker will not be suspended or fined for his hit on Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles that ignited a brawl in the fourth quarter of the game between the two teams on Sunday.

Following a review of the play, Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive director of football operations and its chief disciplinarian, ruled that Foles could have made a tackle during an interception return by the Redskins and thus was not afforded the protections typically granted to a quarterback.

“[The quarterback] cannot be blocked to [the] head/neck area after [a] change of possession,” Vincent wrote Wednesday afternoon on his Twitter page. “Contact was not to head/neck. If [the quarterback] is pursuing [the] play, he is considered [a] potential tackler [and] can be blocked. He was moving toward [the] play and, therefore, [was] open to being blocked.”

Baker knocked Foles off his feet on what was believed at the time to be a 17-yard interception return by Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland with 10:07 remaining. The nose tackle has maintained since the play that he saw merely a player in a white jersey — not specifically the quarterback — turning toward Breeland and pursuing the play, and Baker, therefore, blocked Foles to prevent him from making a tackle.

The biggest question, however, surrounded the way in which Baker hit Foles. Baker lowered his left shoulder and delivered a forceful blow into Foles‘ right shoulder, immediately knocking him to the ground. Eagles left tackle Jason Peters objected to the hit and ran toward Baker, shoving him in the chest before the two players slapped each other in the helmet.

A scuffle ensued on the Redskins‘ sideline, with several Eagles offensive players — and some defensive players — running over to support their teammate. Several players on both teams pushed, shoved and slapped at others, and only after officials issued warnings to both sidelines and ejected Baker and Peters was order restored.

Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 of the 2014 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League outlines player conduct on the field, specifically with regards to roughing the passer during a change of possession. It only outlines penalties for hits to the quarterback’s head or neck area, or a hit made with the crown of the helmet — neither of which applied in this scenario.

An ensuing review of the play by officials revealed that Breeland had not indeed secured the ball when making an attempt at an interception, voiding the return and giving possession back to the Eagles.

Baker maintained after the game Sunday and again on Monday that he had made a legal hit and said it was a “football play.”

“I’ve reviewed the play over and over, and I don’t see anything that I did that was illegal,” Baker said. “I was pass rushing. I fell down. I got up. All I saw was Breeland running, and he could have gotten into the end zone. The next thing I know, I turn around, and I see a white jersey who could have tackled him. He was steps away from him. I took two steps, lowered my shoulder, put my head in front just the way they ask us to do it. I don’t think there was a penalty [flag] thrown until Jason Peters came and hit me, and then a penalty [flag] was thrown and I get ejected for that.”

Redskins coach Jay Gruden defended Baker’s decision to hit Foles, noting that had the quarterback made the tackle on Breeland, consternation would have been directed elsewhere.

“It’s football,” Gruden said Monday. “He’s trying to make a tackle. If Baker doesn’t block him and Breeland gets up and runs and gets pushed out of bounds by Foles, then we’re probably going to be all over Baker for not blocking the quarterback. So, I don’t know what to tell him. We obviously don’t want any ill will toward the quarterback, no cheap shots. We don’t preach any cheap shots. But in the heat of battle in a football game, sometimes things like that happen.”

It remains unclear as to whether any player, including Baker or Peters, will be fined for their role in the brawl. The league typically does not disclose fines handed to players until the Friday after the game, but Baker said Tuesday, when players usually receive written notice of a fine, that he had not yet received one.

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