July 21, 2024

Damontae Kazee, the former Dallas Cowboys defensive back, is the latest NFL player to find himself in the spotlight as the league and its referees try to navigate their way around the violence of the game … and the safety of its players.

Kazee, now playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, made contact with Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. during the first half of Saturday’s game in what some are terming a “vicious” hit.

Indeed, the refs saw it that way and ejected Kazee, who made his contact with the receiver as Pittman was diving for the ball … looked like he was about to catch it … but then was separated from it when Kazee bashed into him.

Pittman remained down on the field for several moments – obviously added a layer to the concern and the drama – but he was able to eventually walk off the field under his own power.

Soon after, Pittman was then ruled out for the rest of the game – which in the end was a 30-13 Steelers loss – with a concussion.

Some media people, like Trey Wingo, were quick to press the “publish” button on social media to decry the hit. Wrote Wingo: “This is the literal definition of the hits the league is trying to get rid of: (Kazee) led with his head into the head and neck area of (Pittman).

But … is that really what happened? Let’s watch …

Originally, it may have looked like a dirty hit. But after looking at a replay … isn’t that Kazee’s shoulder that he leads with, and not his head?

“OK, now that Damontae Kazee’s hit has been shown, that’s a terrible ejection. I thought he led with his helmet, but he clearly turned his shoulder there. Penalty, absolutely. But ejection? Wow,” one tweet from a Steelers beat writer read.

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In the end, even Colts head coach Shane Steichen wasn’t fully willing to indict Kazee, who played in Dallas in 2021 under then-new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

“I’ve got to go back and look at them,” Steichen said of this play and a couple of others under scrutiny. “Obviously, you don’t want to see guys get hurt. They’re bang-bang plays. In real time, it’s tough. Obviously, you don’t want that on your player. On the flip side, we don’t want to do that.”

A fair answer to an open question in a game in which bodies are flying around at each other in real time and at high speeds: They “don’t want to do what,” exactly?

Mike Fisher – as a newspaper beat writer and columnist and on radio and TV, where he is an Emmy winner – has covered the NFL since 1983 and the Dallas Cowboys since 1990. He is the author of two best-selling books on the Cowboys.

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