When Ravens rookie free safety Terrence Brooks knocked Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker out of the game Sunday, the concussion-causing shot was immediately defended by former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira as a legal blow.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh seconded that interpretation of the hit, arguably the hardest tackle from the secondary this season. Although Brooks led with his right shoulder and made a clear effort to remain in the strike zone and wasn't penalized, coaches' video clearly displays that his helmet did make contact with Walker's head during the collision.
"I thought the hit was just a great example of a young guy who's really paying attention to technique, paying attention to the rules, trying to do things the right way," Harbaugh said. "The game can be played in a very physical way still and still adhere to principles of player safety. He did a great job of that."
Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt had an entirely different take, though. He told Tennessee reporters Monday that he thought the tackle should have drawn a penalty and he plans to turn it into the league office. All plays are reviewed by the NFL for potential fines.
"It looked like he tried to lead with the shoulder," Whisenhunt said. "But that's a play that's been a point of emphasis for a while now. The other thing that was tough was he led with the top of his helmet, the crown of his helmet, and he made contact with Delanie's helmet. So if you base it off those two things, it's a penalty."
Walker was on the field motionless after being hit by Brooks on the incomplete pass before eventually regaining movement and walking off the field with assistance from trainers and later being carted off the field to the locker room. He's still under the NFL's concussion protocol.
"I just tried to deliver some power to it," Brooks said Sunday. "I'm glad we could spark the defense. I definitely tried to hit him in the chest below the strike zone. I don't want to get any fines. It was a good hit.
"I definitely didn't try to hit him in the head. We really don't know yet about the money situation. Any time a receiver is coming through the middle, he's definitely thinking there's going to be a safety there."
A rules analyst for Fox Sports, Pereira defended the hit on Twitter.
"This is not an illegal hit on a defenseless receiver," Pereira wrote. "It's shoulder to shoulder, the head is in front. It does lead to a concussion, maybe when he hits the ground, maybe when his head snaps, but this is a legal hit."