No matter what you think of the $21,000 fine the NFL levied on Chicago Bears linebacker Jon Bostic for his hit on San Diego Chargers receiver Mike Willie in Chicago's 33-28 win last Thursday (and we're of the opinion that it was excessive and confusing), it seems that the NFL -- per its own collective bargaining agreement -- went above and beyond in the actual amount.
Bostic, the Bears' second-round pick in 2013, will make a base salary of $405,000 this season. For the purposes of defining weekly salary (and thanks to cap guru Brian McIntyre for confirming this), the NFL divides base pay into 17 increments (16 regular-season games plus a team's bye) and does not include a player's signing bonus. (For the record, Bostic got a $1,246,036 bonus.) Divided into 17 increments, Bostic has a weekly salary of $23,823.53. As a result, the $21k fine is way outside the CBA's restrictions for percentage of weekly pay a player can be fined. Oh, there's no specific violation in this case -- the language is sufficiently nebulous -- but here's what the CBA says about appeals of fines for on-field conduct.
From Article 46, Section 1.(d):
On appeal, a player may assert, among other defenses, that any fine should be reduced because it is excessive when compared to the player’s expected earnings for the season in question. However, a fine may be reduced on this basis only if it exceeds 25 percent of one week of a player’s salary for a first offense, and 50 percent of one week of a player’s salary for a second offense. A player may also argue on appeal that the circumstances do not warrant his receiving a fine above the amount stated in the schedule of fines.
Based on the percentage restriction, Bostic could argue that his fine should be reduced to $5,955.88. And then, he should probably offer to pay it in dimes, because we're still not entirely sure about the NFL's ruling in this case.
"The Bostic hit is illegal because he used the crown of his helmet to deliver a forcible blow to the body of the receiver," NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino told the NFL Network on Wednesday. "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 that we are trying to get back into the game. Using the crown to deliver a blow to the body, that is a foul when you're talking about a hit on a defenseless player."
OK -- it's understandable that the NFL wants its players to avoid leading with the crown of the helmet, and they tightened up the rules for the 2013 season in that regard, but how is Willie a defenseless receiver? He makes the catch and takes two steps before Bostic unloads on him (this isn't the first time the Bears' rookie has been associated with a big hit), and according to the NFL's own rulebook, that ain't defenseless.
[A defenseless receiver is defined as:] a receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner. If the receiver/runner is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player.
The operative word when talking to officials, or officiating supervisors, is "football move." Willie clearly made a football move after the catch, and as such, should have established himself as a player able to be tackled in the eyes of the NFL. That the NFL has deemed Willie to be defenseless even upon review makes us wonder how "defenseless" will be defined -- by the rules, or by an arbitrary standard? We can only wait to see.
This isn't the first time Bostic has been associated with a big hit on the field. He delivered this crushing blow to Teddy Bridgewater in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.