PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Atlanta rookie safety Keanu Neal has drawn a hefty fine from the NFL for his hit on Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
Neal was fined $24,309 by the league on Friday for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Matthews in Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia.
Neal’s hit didn’t draw a flag but it drew criticism from from Matthews, who called the Falcons’ defensive back a dirty player and questioned the officiating after the game.
“I definitely think it was a penalty,” said Matthews, who came away with a bloody lip and and a dented facemask.
Neal said the hit was unintentional and didn’t think he made contact with Matthews’ head.
“I’m not trying to hit the guy in the head,” Neal said via ESPN.com. “That’s not me. Never in the game of football will I ever try to do that. I’m not a dirty player like that. But I went for the strike zone. I lowered my shoulder. And I felt like I hit him in the sternum. I don’t think I had any head-to-head contact.”
The hit came on third down as the Eagles were driving for the go-ahead score. The team’s displeasure over the no-call was compounded by what appeared to be pass interference on running back Darren Sproles one play earlier. But that too failed to draw a flag from the officials.
The officiating crew later said the hit on Matthews was deemed “incidental contact” and therefore not a penalty.
However, the league reviewed the play and determined that Neal should’ve been flagged for a personal foul.
Intentional or not, the hit to the head of Matthews turned out to be a blow to the pocket of Neal.