San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ Brooks: NFL’s rules protecting QBs have ‘watered down’ the game

Ahmad Brooks doesn’t want Ray Lewis’ or Tedy Bruschi’s money, but the 49ers linebacker does want to win his appeal on the nearly $16,000 fine he received this week for his controversial hit on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Brooks tested his defense on a group of reporters who gathered in front of his locker Thursday, and at one point asked for a show of hands as to whether his hit was illegal or not.

“Hopefully, they’ll hear me out because I didn’t intentionally mean to knock him out like that, but that’s part of the game,” Brooks said. “I mean, I didn’t hit him in the head. You can argue that maybe I got him in the neck a little bit. But it was really in the chest, in the collarbone area.”

The hit has put a national spotlight on Brooks, the most anonymous member of a recognized 49ers linebacking corps.

“I’m not upset,” Brooks said. “Obviously, it’s given me a lot of publicity. It’s not worth $16 grand, but this is the most publicity I ever had off of one play.”

He’s also gotten support from retired linebackers like Lewis and Bruschi, who are ESPN analysts and who have offered to pay a portion of Brooks’ fine. Bruschi, in fact, called Brooks on Wednesday to reiterate his offer.

“He said he was going to make a donation,” Brooks said. “I said, ‘You don’t have to do it. I’m a grown man, I can take care of it.’”

He’s also declined Lewis’ offer but said he appreciates the gesture and linebacker solidarity.

The league, which has discouraged illegal hits on quarterbacks in recent years, is unlikely to back down from its stance that Brooks’ blow to Brees, which occurred late in Sunday’s game, was against the rules.

Brooks was penalized on the play, which negated a sack and a fumble by Brees and allowed the Saints to kick a tying field goal. The NFL’s head of officiating, Dean Blandino, later said that even though, as Brooks has argued, the initial hit was to the chest, Brooks’ arm eventually made its way to Brees’ chin and neck, making the hit illegal. Brees was bleeding from his lower lip after the play.

Brooks’ main argument – that the rules protecting quarterbacks have “watered down” the game – has struck a chord with fans and fellow defensive players. He said it’s become a different game from the one his late father, former Redskins defensive lineman Perry Brooks, played in the 1980s. But he needs to choose his words more carefully if he wants to win an appeal.

Brooks said he didn’t hit Brees in the head but rather “clotheslined” the quarterback, which also is illegal under NFL rules. “And by him falling and him being 5-11, 6-foot, it just made it look like I hit him in the neck,” Brooks said.

“That’s part of the game,” he said of the rough-and-tumble nature of the sport. “Even a child that plays pee wee football, Pop Warner football – they have concussions. You know what I mean? I mean, that’s just how we were taught growing up. And for them to try to change it when somebody is 25 years old, I mean you have to pretty much re-teach yourself how to hit.”

Brooks also was fined for a late hit on Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in Week 1. He lost his appeal of that fine, he said.