NFL Making Packers Pay for Aggressive Play

Deliver a big hit — legal or not — and face the consequences. That's basically what the NFL has become. No team knows that more than the Green Bay Packers.

Has any team this season had to deal with more questionable calls ruled against them than the Green Bay Packers?

Cornerback Tramon Williams' unnecessary roughness penalty last Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings was the latest example of the Packers having to overcome a big hit gone bad. Appearing on "Inside Lambeau" on Thursday night, Williams said he was fined $21,000. That's five Packers who have been fined this season.

The message from the league appears is clear — deliver a big hit, perceived to be legal or not, and face the consequences.

"I know a clean lick when I do it myself," Williams said last Sunday. Asked further what he could have done differently he said, "I don't know. I don't know. Truthfully, I don't know. I looked at the replay, just like everybody else, and I just can't see it."

Neither could coach Mike McCarthy, who saw his blood pressure rise after a flag was thrown on the play. Williams appeared to lead with his shoulder in an attempt to break up a potential pass completion to the outstretched Toby Gerhart.

Like the rash of injuries the Packers are dealing with, penalties for big hits have piled up, too.

Reasonably speaking, at least half of the 13 personal-foul, roughing-the-passer and unnecessary-roughness penalties on the Packers have been disputable. The combined total of such penalties is the highest in any one season under McCarthy — and four games remain.

"Everything that we're doing is legal," said rookie safety Jerron McMillian. "You know, it's not like we're hitting anybody in the head or blatantly hitting them late. It's nothing like that. We're playing full speed and we're trying to make sure receivers are not coming up with the ball."

McMillian was penalized and fined $21,000 a week ago for a hit on New York Giants tight end Martellus Bennett. McMillian thought the hit was clean and said Bennett's reaction to it was what made the official throw the flag. He understands what the league is trying to do for player safety but said, even with the penalty and fine, he has not found it difficult to stay aggressive.

McMillian was fined for hitting Bennett.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
"It's not hard at all," said McMillian. "Every week we're going to try to be aggressive and as physical as we can within the rules. You never know if you're going to get fined for anything that you've done until you come back on Wednesday. We're going to keep the same mentality we've have week in and week out and that's being aggressive and being physical and make sure that the receivers are not catching the ball."

With fellow rookie Dezman Moses, there remains some gray area. The undrafted rookie free agent, who has started the last three games for the injured Clay Matthews, is finding it more difficult to adjust his style.

"I'm still trying to figure that out," said Moses. "You know, for me, I just try to hit guys low, lower my target point. That's about all you can do. You see some plays look clean, you see guys go after the ball, and they're still getting personal fouls. You just don't know. So, you just want to hit guys lower. I think that's the point that the league is trying to make. Hit guys lower and make it a little safer for them. And understand, you want your best players out there playing and you want the best team to win, but at the same time, you still have to be physical. It's just really tough to do right now."

Moses has been flagged for unnecessary roughness twice this season. One came on special teams and the other came after what appeared to be a proper hit on St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson.

Earlier in the season linebacker Nick Perry put his facemask into the chest of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck for a sack and fumble, which later prompted outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene to say, "You cannot control an accident." Perry was fined $15,000.

Linebacker Brad Jones hit Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in the head accidentally as he tried to knock down a pass. He was fined $15,750.

And tight end Ryan Taylor, in perhaps the biggest head-scratching fine of the season, was assessed $21,000 for a blind-side block on the Arizona Cardinals' Rashad Johnson. Taylor has appealed the fine but has yet to hear from the league office. The block never drew a penalty, which might help his case, and was an integral part of Randall Cobb's 28-yard punt return.

On the field, the 13 previously mentioned penalties have energized the Packers in most cases. Five times they have overcome the major infractions to force punts and twice they have even recorded interceptions. After Williams' penalty against the Vikings, Morgan Burnett picked off Christian Ponder on the next play, and after a Jones roughing-the-passer penalty at Detroit, Casey Hayward picked off Stafford, also on the ensuing play.

Perry's penalty against the Colts and Erik Walden's roughing the passer at Seattle — on a play in which McMillian made an interception — took away turnovers for the Packers, but the defense rebounded to force a turnover on downs both times.

Only three times the opposition was able produce scoring drives (two touchdowns, one field goal) as the result of one of the penalties. So, the Packers have recovered fairly well.

"You get frustrated but, you know, flags are a part of the game," said McMillian. "You can't really hang your head low."

15 Yards

Personal-foul, roughing-the-passer and unnecessary-roughness penalties under McCarthy

(Totals do not include face-mask penalties. Only regular-season penalties that were accepted are included.)

2012 — 13 (though 12 games)

2011 — 7

2010 — 6

2009 — 9

2008 — 11

2007 — 10

2006 — 6

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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at

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