Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin takes a helmet-to-helmet hit from Eagles… (Scott Cunningham / Getty…)
Dunta Robinson hit. And the NFL hit back.
The league Monday fined the Atlanta Falcons cornerback $40,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin, reasoning the receiver was in a "defenseless posture" having just made a catch an instant before.
The hit came with 6 minutes 12 seconds to play in the third quarter, as Maclin was running across the middle with the ball. Robinson blasted his helmet into Maclin's, flattening the receiver. Maclin lay on the turf for several seconds and got up slowly but was able to return to the game.
Robinson drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
NBC, which was broadcasting the game, quickly cued up footage of Robinson's hit on Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson the year before, one that resulted in a $50,000 fine on Robinson that was reduced to $25,000.
In the off-season, the league said it reserved the right to suspend flagrant hitters who were repeat offenders. In this case, it chose to fine Robinson the prescribed amount for second-time violators.
In a letter to Robinson on Monday, Merton Hanks, the league's vice president of football operations, said: "Future offenses will result in an escalation of fines up to and including suspension."
After the game, Maclin and Jackson were adamant that the hit was illegal, with Jackson saying of Robinson: "I guess that's what type of player he is. He tries to go for the kill shot and things like that. He got a flag for it, so I'm just glad Jeremy is OK."
Robinson on Monday defended the collision, arguing it differed from the hit on Jackson because Maclin had time to brace for it.
"Last year, they said the receiver didn't have time to see me; he was a defenseless receiver," Robinson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "But I saw [Maclin] catch the ball. I saw him run, trying to get up field to score. So me as a defender, if I whiff on him, he's probably going to run around me [for] a long touchdown.
"This is a physical football game. That's the way I play. If I don't play that way, I wouldn't make it in this league. I definitely didn't think it was a dirty play. I'm not a dirty player. I don't go out there and hit players illegally."
The rules would allow Robinson to make that hit -- even helmet to helmet -- were Maclin considered a runner. However, a receiver who has made a catch is not considered a runner until he has had enough time to make a "football move" -- a common act to the game, such as being able to pitch, pass or advance the ball. That expansion of the rules was made in the off-season.
Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott said he was bothered not that Robinson used his helmet, but the way he used the top of his helmet.
"The art of tackling is to use your shoulders, your hands, and you're supposed to be able to see the target," Lott said in a phone interview.
"For me, watching that, it just didn't seem like for his safety, those fundamentals weren't a part of that play. From my vantage point, that could have been very catastrophic for [Robinson]."
Things are getting desperate in Indianapolis, where the Colts have fallen to 0-2 for the first time since Peyton Manning's rookie year, and -- with the four-time NFL most valuable player out because of a neck injury -- there's little hope of the franchise salvaging the season.
In Monday's Indianapolis Star, sports columnist Bob Kravitz said the franchise should reach out to Brett Favre and try to coax him out of retirement, reasoning he'd be a better answer than Manning replacement Kerry Collins.
But another former NFL quarterback -- one who lives 20 minutes from the Colts' facility -- said he'd love to lend a hand, and for a league-minimum salary. Jeff George, who threw for 27,602 yards and 154 touchdowns from 1990 to 2001, said he could pick up the basics of the Colts' offense in a matter of days and make a positive contribution.
"I know it's a longshot, but they need something," the 43-year-old George said by phone, stressing he wasn't intending to be critical of Collins, who "was put in a bad situation."
"If I can come back and help my hometown team, with my family being here, in any way that I could, what a great feeling that would be," George said.
He shouldn't wait by the phone. He was last on an NFL roster for a month in 2006 when he competed for the No. 3 quarterback job in Oakland's training camp. The No. 1 overall pick by the Colts in 1990, he also played for Atlanta, Oakland, Minnesota and Washington, and was briefly on the rosters in Seattle and Chicago.
George said he can hope, but he's also realistic about the long odds against a team ever taking a chance on him.
"Every year I think I'm close to coming back," he said. "Everybody tells you, 'Stay in shape because you never know.' I just kind of get tired of hearing it."
Vick status unclear
Michael Vick suffered a concussion in Sunday's loss at Atlanta and had to leave the game. The Eagles are not ruling out the possibility he could return for their Week 3 game against the New York Giants, but the quarterback must be cleared by an independent neurologist to do so.
Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder said that it was "foolish" at this point to give a time frame for Vick's return and that "we're going to go through our protocol."
Vick's replacement, Mike Kafka, completed seven of nine passes for 72 yards in his NFL debut.