Cecil's hit strikes Middleton as OK Redskin not mad at fined Cardinal


ASHBURN, Va. -- When Ron Middleton's helmet was knocked off by a hit from Chuck Cecil in the second game of the season, the Washington Redskins tight end had one thought.

"I figured I'd make one of the NFL Greatest Hits [videos] and make all the highlight [shows] that weekend. I didn't know it was going to be all this," Middleton said.

By "all this," Middleton was referring to the Phoenix Cardinals' safety being fined $30,000 for the hit and landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated labeled as a player "too vicious" for the NFL.

Middleton won't make the NFL videos. The league has banned the hit from its videos because it contends it was illegal.

Cecil gets another chance to pop Middleton on Sunday when the teams meet in the rematch in Phoenix, and he'll do it if he gets the chance.

"Under the same circumstances, I'd do the exact same thing. It's not a personal issue. It's just my job. It's what I do," Cecil told Phoenix reporters yesterday.

Middleton has no problem with that. Even though the league frowned on the hit because it is conducting a war on hits with the crown of the helmet, Middleton saw nothing wrong.

"I thought it was a good hit. I shook his hand afterward, and I told him, 'good lick,' and he said, 'I was just doing my job,' " he said.

Middleton's only complaint was Cecil's conduct after the hit.

"I look at the film, and he's standing over me woofing me and then the guys tell me he kicked my helmet. That's my only gripe about it," he said.

Cecil agreed yesterday that he was wrong for kicking the helmet.

"Tell him I'm sorry for kicking his helmet," Cecil said. "I never counted him out, but I did kick his helmet. It wasn't really intentional. It was more a reaction than anything."

Middleton bit his tongue when he was hit, and it was numb for two weeks. He had ringing in his ears, and his shoulder and neck were sore, but Middleton has no complaints.

The only thing that puzzles him was Cecil's quote in Sports Illustrated that "football gives my life meaning."

Middleton said: "I don't know the guy, but he seems like he's in a different league from a lot of guys."

Cecil isn't the only player getting fined for helmet hits. Corwin Brown

of the New England Patriots was fined $3,500 yesterday for a hit on a Phoenix tight end, Derek Ware, on Sunday. Cecil got a stiffer fine because of repeated offenses.

The Cardinals had no complaints on the Brown hit against their player. "I thought the hit their safety put on our tight end was a great hit," coach Joe Bugel said.

Bugel said the league is going overboard on the issue. "I think we've kind of opened up a Pandora's box. I hope we don't change the game. I'm for clean football. Things happen so fast that sometimes you hit with a little bit of the top of your helmet. It's unvoidable," he said.

Washington coach Richie Petitbon agrees with Bugel.

"How can it not be legal if they don't throw a penalty on it. I haven't been able to figure that one out, but don't get me talking on officials," Petitbon said. No flags were thrown on the Cecil or Brown hits.

Bill Polian, a former Buffalo Bills general manager who is now a league official in charge of fines, said it's sometimes difficult for the officials to tell whether a hit is made with the crown of the helmet.

Middleton, meanwhile, has no intent of trying to even the score with Cecil on Sunday. He knows the officials might be watching.

"I just want to stay away from the guy so there's no kind [of thought that], 'Well, he's trying to get him back.' I just want a win. That'd be the sweetest revenge."

NOTES: As if the Redskins didn't have enough problems, they're getting hit with a flu bug. C Jeff Bostic and P Reggie Roby became ill yesterday. . . . DL Eric Williams (hip), who's retiring at the end of the season, practiced for the second straight day and hopes to play Sunday.

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