On the NFL regular season schedule, Saturdays are accountability days for the league. After reviewing every play from the previous week’s games, the league hands out fines to players who violated league rules in the name of player safety.
Through the first two weeks of the 2023 season, the Detroit Lions avoided any fines, but in Week 3, two defenders received three separate fines for plays deemed “unnecessary” by the league. All fines can be appealed in processes overseen by former NFL players Derrick Brooks or James Thrash.
Once fines are collected, the funds are “donated to the Professional Athletes Foundation to support Legends in need and the NFL Foundation to further support the health, safety, and wellness of athletes across all levels, including youth football and the communities that support the game,” per the NFL.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, the first Lions player to receive a fine was linebacker Alex Anzalone, who delivered an unpenalized hit to the head of running Bijan Robinson on the first non-special teams play of the game.
Anzalone received a $13,922 fine for the hit.
Rookie defensive back Brian Branch received two $8,103 fines over two separate plays, both while also tackling Robinson. The first was a horse-collar tackle at the beginning of the third quarter.
Here is the NFL definition of a horse-collar tackle, per the NFL rulebook:
“No player shall grab the inside collar of the back or the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, or grab the jersey at the name plate or above, and pull the runner toward the ground. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.”
The second finable offense Branch received came late in the game, with just over two minutes remaining in the game. Branch was fined for “delivering” a blow to the head of Robinson.
Yes, Robinson does lower his head on ahead of contact, but because the penalty was not clearly explained beyond “unnecessary roughness,” it’s not entirely clear which part of the hit was deemed illegal. Justin Rogers of the Detroit News did a nice job of explaining the possibilities.
Because Robinson doesn't take a step forward and is bracing for contact after the catch, it probably doesn't constitute forcible contact. Honestly, flag and fine weren't clear. This could have been a "defenseless receiver" infraction. Not sure if the pivot is a "football move". https://t.co/fRlOFGT0yB pic.twitter.com/HvrJrsN9eL— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) September 30, 2023
Meanwhile, two Falcons players also received fines for “unnecessary roughness” plays. Linebacker Kaden Ellis received $16,391 fine, while fullback Keith Smith was fined $87,418 for his hit on Lions running back Zonovan Knight during the opening kickoff.