The fallout from Terrell Suggs' low hit on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford entered Day Three with the NFL acknowledging there shouldn't have been a flag thrown on the play and Ravens coach John Harbaugh defending the veteran linebacker amid accusations he's a dirty player.
"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 when you start popping off about somebody's character, you crossed the line," Harbaugh said following the Ravens' practice Monday afternoon. "That's not really something that we respect. But, most of the guys over there understood the play and understood that [Suggs] was playing hard and trying to get stops."
Harbaugh was apparently referring to comments made by All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters, who accused Suggs of being a dirty player following the Eagles' 40-17 victory on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Peters also said he believed Suggs' hit in the area of Bradford's knees was premeditated, given the quarterback has had two knee surgeries over the past three years.
While the Eagles' primary gripe was that Suggs went low on Bradford, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said in an interview with NFL Network Monday that there was nothing wrong with the timing of the hit. Blandino said that head referee Jerome Boger erred in calling a roughing-the-passer penalty on Suggs after the player tackled Bradford after the quarterback's handoff to running back Darren Sproles on a read-option play.
"The referee felt it was late," Blandino said. "We clarified this, really, in 2012 with the proliferation of these read-option schemes. Basically, 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. It's not a foul, by rule. It's something that we'll make sure 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 is going to take off and run or drop back.
"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. We'll clarify that and make sure everybody is on the same page."
Suggs pleaded his case to Boger after the flag was thrown and later advised people who were criticizing the hit to "learn the rules."
"If you want to run the read option with your starting quarterback that's had two knee surgeries, that's on you," Suggs said after the game. "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. I asked Jerome the referee, 'Does he know the rules in preseason?' He's like, 'Yeah, I know.' I was like, 'All right, I'm just making sure.' He's all right and he said he's going to look at it. Like I said, it's the preseason."
Suggs was not available to comment on Monday.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly told reporters in Philadelphia Monday that while he didn't think Suggs' hit was intentional, he did believe it warranted a penalty flag. Bradford also told The Philadelphia Inquirer Monday that he has "no problem getting hit, but if you want to come hit me, hit me in the chest."
Kelly also claimed that it wasn't a read-option play and was just a handoff out of the shotgun. Blandino and the Ravens obviously didn't see it that way.
"That's exactly the reason why we put these rules in," Blandino said. "He's a runner at that point and the defensive end doesn't know what he's going to do. It would be really difficult to put that onus on the defensive player to let up or hold up when the quarterback has those different options. It is legal and we'll make sure everybody is on the same page going forward."
The play and the rule was "very clear," Harbaugh said.
"Three years ago, my brother brought it up and tried to get the quarterback deemed a passer in that situation," Harbaugh said, making reference to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, the former coach of the San Francisco 49ers. "He's not a passer, he's a runner. Everybody knows that. He played it exactly the way we were coaching him to play it at that time."
Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino added: "I think that we understand what we ask our guys to do in that situation, and I think [Suggs] did it exactly the way we wanted it done."