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What was Jimmie Ward supposed to do for this hit on Robert Woods?

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He leaned down, and then Woods did as well. I don’t know what else Ward could do.

The San Francisco 49ers gave up a touchdown to the Los Angeles Rams at the end of the first half, and it was preceded by an unnecessary roughness penalty on free safety Jimmie Ward. The Rams had a 1st and 10 at the 49ers 17. Jared Goff found Robert Woods over the middle, and just after Woods caught the ball, Ward came in with a huge hit.

Given how the NFL is claiming they want to protect player safety, it was not entirely surprising they called Ward for the penalty. In the bang-bang moment of this hit, it looked like he was hitting the proverbial defenseless receiver. However, a replay of this hit raises some questions for me. Here’s a GIF of the play.

There is no replay of penalties, so I am not surprised by the call. But in terms of the attempts at player safety, what exactly was Jimmie Ward supposed to do on this play. As Woods caught the ball, we see Ward crouching over and leaning in with his shoulder to hit Woods. As Ward crouches down, Woods crouches down as hell. Ward’s shoulder blasts him and the penalty is called.

Later next week, the NFL will send out fines for hits. When I first watched the play live, I figured Ward would end up getting fined. But in looking at this replay, I don’t see how the NFL could justify fining him for this hit. What exactly was he supposed to do?