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Eli Harold appealing fine of $18,231 for ‘horse-collar’ tackle of Russell Wilson

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We’ve got video of the play. What do you think?

San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker told the media this week that he was fined $18,231 for a horse collar tackle against Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Harold chased down Wilson and tackled him for what would have been his first career sack. The refs threw a flag and the 3rd and 21 became a Seahawks 1st and 10. Wilson injured his knee on the play, and was replaced by Trevone Boykin. An MRI revealed an MCL sprain, but it apparently is not a particularly big one, and Wilson is available for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.

Harold is appealing the fine. Here is how the NFL defines horse collar tackles in the rulebook (the name plate portion was added to the rule this year):

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.

Note: It is not necessary for a player to pull the runner completely to the ground in order for the act to be illegal. If his knees are buckled by the action, it is a foul, even if the runner is not pulled completely to the ground.

FOX analyst John Lynch said during the game that he did not think it was a horse collar tackle because Harold pulled him forward from the horse collar, not backward. However, in reading the rule above, I’m not entirely sure that forward vs. backward actually matters. Harold does appear to grab Wilson by the name plate or above. If forward vs. backward matters, then Harold should win his appeal. But if forward vs. backward doesn’t matter, unfortunately, I don’t think Harold is going to win this one.

UPDATE:

Later on in the 4th quarter, Mike Pereira came on to further clarify what a horse collar was. Here’s what he said on if it’s the correct call or not:

"Yeah, it is. There's no consideration as to what direction he pulls him in, it's just if he grabs the collar in the back of the side. The thing that you're trying to prevent is the leg movement by the tackler, it gets swung into the legs of the quarterback and that creates the injury and that's the motion they are trying to stop."