PHILADELPHIA — The NFL says Terrell Suggs' hit on Sam Bradford's knees on Saturday night wasn't illegal and shouldn't have been a penalty.
Chip Kelly disagrees.
Suggs was called for roughing the passer after a low hit on Bradford in the first quarter of Philadelphia's 40-17 win over Baltimore. He argued the quarterback is fair game on zone-read plays. Dean Blandino, the league's vice president of officiating, agreed.
"Because the quarterback has an option, he's considered a runner until he either clearly doesn't have the football or he re-establishes himself as a passer," Blandino said Monday.
"So it's not a foul by rule. It's something that we'll make sure that we cover with our game officials because the defensive end coming off the edge, he doesn't know if the quarterback is going to keep it, he doesn't know if he's going to take off and run or drop back and so we treat the quarterback in that instance as a runner until he clearly re-establishes as a passer or he clearly doesn't have the football. The referee felt it was late so we'll clarify that and make sure everyone is on the same page."
But Kelly said the play was a simple handoff out of a shotgun formation. Replays show Bradford didn't attempt to carry out a fake.
"That's not a zone-read play. On a zone-read play, a quarterback can get hit," Kelly said. "Not every shotgun run is a zone-read play. We don't run as much zone-read as everybody thinks we do. Are they going to hit every quarterback in the league when they hand off in a shotgun?
"That's up to the league. Sam wasn't going anywhere. If you watched him, he was handing the ball off. If our quarterback hands the ball off and isn't going anywhere, you shouldn't be able to hit him. That's the way the rule has been explained to us."
Kelly said he hasn't spoken to Blandino yet.
"I think it'll be troubling for the league if every quarterback in the shotgun can get it (after a handoff)," Kelly said. "It's up to (the NFL) on how they want to handle it. If that's what they want to do, then we all have to adjust because everybody in the league has runs out of the shotgun."
Bradford played his first game since his second ACL surgery in 11 months. He was upset with the hit. Left tackle Jason Peters called it "dirty" and suggested it was premeditated.
"When you run the read-option, you have to know the rules," Suggs said. "If you want to run the read-option with your starting quarterback that's had two knee surgeries, that's on you. That's not my responsibility to update you on the rule. I could've hit him harder on that. I didn't. I eased up."
Bradford wants the league to take a closer look at the rule and zone-read plays.
"I think there's just probably just some gray area as far as what a zone-read is," Bradford said. "You running a play out of the shotgun doesn't mean it's a zone-read. We have a lot of plays in our offense where there are absolutely no reads for us, it's an automatic give. I think the league is probably just going have to clarify what a zone-read is."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh defended his player, agreeing with Blandino.
"I'm happy they came out and told the full story on that," he said. "As I read most of the Eagles quotes, I thought they understood the play. One or two of them didn't understand the play, and you started popping off about somebody's character, you've crossed the line. That's not really something that we would really respect. But most of those guys over there understood the play and that 55 was playing hard and trying to get it stopped. The quarterback is not a passer, he's a runner."
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