The NFL absolved Cincinnati defensive end Robert Geathers yesterday for his hit on Kansas City quarterback Trent Green, emphasizing quarterbacks are responsible for avoiding hits by sliding.
Green sustained a serious concussion last Sunday after a hit by Geathers and will miss at least two or three games. ``The injury . . . was unfortunate and has drawn much commentary, but it is not a foul," Ray Anderson, the NFL's senior vice president, said in a statement.
Anderson said a review of the play in Kansas City showed Green started ``a late slide" as Geathers prepared to tackle him. At the same time, Geathers was blocked in the back by a Chiefs player, was no longer in control of his body, and twisted in order to avoid driving his helmet into Green or hitting him helmet-to-helmet. Geathers's right shoulder, however, hit Green's shoulder and drove Green's head into the ground.
In a memo sent to each team, Anderson said: ``On sliding quarterback plays, the responsibility of defenders is to avoid a sliding quarterback while the responsibility of the quarterback is to use the protection properly. This rule will continue to be strictly enforced, and violations are likely to result in disciplinary action."
Anderson said quarterbacks who want to take advantage of the protection of a slide must start it before the prospect of imminent contact. He cited a play in the Seattle-Detroit game as an example of an illegal hit: Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck began a slide, but Lions linebacker Ernie Sims, who had the opportunity to avoid contact, drove his helmet into Hasselbeck while another defender, Cory Redding, jumped over the quarterback. Sims drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
While Vincent, 35, was surprised by the move, learning of it when he arrived for practice, he is at peace with the team's decision. ``It's difficult but [there's] nothing that I can do. It's nothing I can change," Vincent said. ``I understand the nature of the business. I understand that injuries come along with the business. I'm a big boy."
Because the injury is not serious, Vincent said he was placed on what the NFL refers to as injured reserve-minor. This would allow the Bills to waive Vincent when he's healthy, freeing him to sign with any team but Buffalo this season. The move, however, would terminate the final three years of his contract.
Linebacker Takeo Spikes, however, found the news more difficult to accept. The nine-year veteran said the move signaled the Bills are intent on spending this season rebuilding a young and revamped defense that could feature as many as four rookie starters when Buffalo plays at Miami Sunday. ``It's baffling," Spikes said. ``If you write it down on paper, it spells rebuilding. As much as you don't want it to be that way, ultimately, that's the way that it is."
Vincent was hurt during the second series of Buffalo's 19-17 opening loss at New England. He aggravated an injury he initially hurt in training camp last month, feeling a twinge after tackling running back Laurence Maroney. Vincent said tests showed the hamstring is not torn.
Spikes is also listed as questionable after he hurt his right hamstring against New England.