NFL explains why Jon Bostic's hit is illegal and D.J. Swearinger's isn't

Bostic was fined for his hit to the shoulder while Keller will miss 2012 after a defender went low on him. (ESPN/USATSI)
The NFL fined Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic $21,000 for what looked like a perfectly legal hit on Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie. But in an era where safety is paramount, the league has no issue with Texans safety D.J. Swearinger going low on Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller, who suffered a torn ACL, MCL and PCL on the play and is lost for the season.

NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino explained this week why Bostic's hit was deemed illegal and Swearinger's was not.

"The Bostic hit is illegal because he used the crown of his helmet to deliver a forceable blow to the body of the receiver," Blandino said, via "For this hit to be legal he has to get the helmet to the side and use the shoulder to deliver the blow, or hit the receiver with his head up. Those are the two techniques we're trying to get back in the game."

Judge for yourself if Bostic led with the crown of his helmet and not his shoulder. We remain unconvinced by the NFL's reasoning.

And Keller?

"Keller is considered a defenseless player and he's protected in two ways: He's protected from hits to the head or neck area, and to hits to the body with the crown or forehead/hairline parts of the helmet," Blandino said. "Those rules do not prohibit low contact like you see in the hit here."

You can see that hit here.

Needless to say, teammates for both Bostic and Keller remain mystified.

Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline called Swearinger's rationale for going low (basically, that it would keep the league from fining him -- which is exactly what happened) "crap."

”I mean I think that, me personally, if you're telling me, ‘Oh, I'm so worried about going high or hurt[ing] the head,' you consciously went low then, is what you're trying to tell me," Hartline said.

As we've written before, these are the unintended consequences of actions not thought through entirely by the league. Yes, the NFL should thrive for making the game as safe as possible, but drastic changes don't come without ramifications. And the league can't argue that knee injuries were unforeseen because players lamented that possibly as soon as the new rules were announced.

Meanwhile, Bostic, who will make $405,000 this season, is $21,000 lighter in the wallet for what everyone -- but those in the league office -- has called a perfect form tackle.

Even Willie, the poor soul on the business end of that hit, thinks so.

"Oh no, he gave me a lick," Willie said the day after the game but before the fine came down. "It was a clean hit, I think."

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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