Does George Iloka Deserve His Fine for Hit on Jermichael Finley?

Sean ODonnellContributor IIISeptember 27, 2013

Sep 22, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA;  Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley (88) is injured on the field against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

During the Cincinnati Bengals' 34-30 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, an underlying storyline was the concussion suffered by tight end Jermichael Finley in the first quarter of the game.

Finley was hit by safety George Iloka after catching an Aaron Rogers pass up the seam. The hit took Finley out of the game and was reviewed by the NFL.

After dissection of the events that transpired, the NFL declared the incident a hit on a defenseless receiver and subsequently fined Iloka $15,000.

Iloka is only set to make a base salary of $480,000 this season according to The fine would be approximately half of his game check. During an interview with USA Todaythe safety declared, "Pretty much, I played for free last week."

When asked about the hit, Iloka does not think he could have done anything differently. He stated his case:

He was coming at me head first, and I was just trying to make a play on the ball and knock it out with my hand, and his head happened to hit my lower bicep area and caused a concussion.

He also indicated that the rule hinders his ability to play his position effectively:

You can't do anything but let them catch the ball. Unless there's a new rule that you have to let players catch the ball, you just have to eat that fine. I'd rather take whatever the fine is than let a guy make a big catch on third-and-whatever.

Upon reviewing the play, it appears as though Iloka has a case.

During the play, Finley runs a route directly up the seam on Iloka's side of the field:


Finley manages to get behind the coverage. Iloka notices this and sees Rodgers wind up to throw in Finley's direction:


After making a break toward the tight end, Iloka begins to brace for contact. Just as he gets ready to deliver a hit, Finley begins to dive after the ball which completely changes the targeted area of contact for Iloka:


Notice how low to the ground Finley is as Iloka makes the hit:


Now, a closer look. Iloka does a nice job to avoid helmet-to-helmet contact and, because of Finley's dive, his head is struck by the left shoulder pad of Iloka:


Watch the play happen in its entirety:


There is no scenario in which Iloka could have completely avoided contact with Finley. When the safety initially began to make an attempt to hit the tight end and jar the ball loose, Finley was just beginning to dive, making the intended area of contact change dramatically.

This is another example of the gray area of the NFL's player safety rules. The hit did not draw a penalty during the game, yet upon further review, the NFL decided that a fine was necessary.

The league is obviously trying to err on the side of caution with these types of incidents. But, how realistic is it to expect a player in Iloka's position to pull up and avoid contact at the last second? Moving at the pace in which these players advance makes a last-second change virtually impossible.

Iloka did not deserve to be fined, and the NFL must take a step back and find a way to make this rule clear to players going forward. The gray area for these player safety policies needs to be black and white.