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For the Patriots, Head Hunting is OK?

During  the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Chiefs on Saturday, one of the biggest and most controversial plays came on a punt return.

During  the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Chiefs on Saturday, one of the biggest and most controversial plays came on a punt return.

With nine minutes remaining in the second quarter, Danny Amendola went back to field a punt and let it sail past him as he’s coached to do. But when the Chiefs’ Jamell Fleming went to catch and down it inside of the five yard line, Amendola peeled back and laid Fleming out before he could catch it.

The play itself is legal in that Amendola was a legal blocker as he did not signal for a fair catch, so he can prevent the defender from catching the ball. But that’s not what made it controversial.

Amendola CLEARLY led with the crown of his helmet, and he blasted Fleming around the head and neck area. After the play, a little scuffle broke out as the Chiefs took exception to Amendola’s head hunting. According to the NFL,  “The reworded rules prohibit a player from launching himself off the ground and using his helmet to strike a player in a defenseless posture in the head or neck. The old rule only applied to receivers getting hit, but now it will apply to everyone.”

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After last weekend’s Steelers-Bengals game in which Vontaze Burfict was eventually hit with a three-game suspension for repeated violations of player safety rules, one would think that this type of play would be subject to further punishment including a fine and/or suspension.

Again, the notion of Amendola blocking Fleming to prevent him from downing the ball is not in question; all gunners (punt defenders) are taught to watch for that block if a fair catch is not signaled for.


What is in question is the fact that he led with his helmet and launched at Fleming’s head/neck area. 

Replace Amendola with another person, even another player on a different team, and ask yourself this- would that player be fined and/or suspended? He was flagged for unnecessary roughness so there’s obviously a penalty involved, but you just seem to get the feeling that his team colors will enable him to escape further penalty.


Imagine what would happen if Burfict, Pacman Jones or James Harrison had laid out Fleming instead? Should reputation be the sole or dominant factor in judgment or should it be the action itself?