The 49ers' defense played the second half without starting linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who took to his Instagram saying, “Free me” after he was ejected for a hit on Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert toward the end of the second quarter.
That hit, and rightfully so, sent 49ers fans into a frenzy. They weren’t the only ones upset or confused. Both teams' media members felt Greenlaw shouldn’t have been ejected.
The Athletic’s Matt Barrows had an interview with NFL Senior Vice President of officiating Walt Anderson to discuss why Greenlaw was ejected. Here’s the transcript:
Question: “I assume the call to eject San Francisco linebacker Dre Greenlaw came from New York?”
Anderson: “That is correct. What the officials had was a flag for a player lowering his head and making forcible contact and Rule 19 allows us when a flag is thrown to examine the play, and if we feel the action is flagrant, then the rule allows us to disqualify the player, and that’s what we determined. It was a flagrant act.”
Question: “What about the act made it flagrant?”
Anderson: “The timing, the manner in which the player had an opportunity to make other choices and to make a different decision. Those all go into factoring whether something is flagrant. Those are just some of the factors that are considered.”
Question: “On the play, the quarterback first seems to be tackled by a linebacker, then a safety and he’s being forced into the tackler (Greenlaw). Does that mitigate it in any way?”
Anderson: “The runner was a downed runner. He was already down by contact. That certainly plays into taking a look at the actions taken by the defender. If he had other choices in terms of his actions, we felt like the actions he took were flagrant in nature, and that was the reason for disqualification.”
Question: “So you’re saying that the runner was already going down and being tackled when the third player, Dre Greenlaw, made contact?”
Anderson: “Yes, he (Justin Herbert) was down. Whenever the player (Greenlaw) lowered his head and made forcible contact, the runner was already down on the ground. His knee was already down, and he was tackled.”
Question: “Does the fact that a quarterback is involved have any bearing on it? If it was a running back, do you make the same judgment in New York?”
Anderson: “Yes, the same rule applies both for the officials on the field and for the decisions we’re looking for in New York in terms of determining in whether the actions are flagrant or not. It would have been the same if it had been any other ball carrier. Another thing is, whether fouls are called or not, fouls have subsequent action or not on game day, players are always subject to additional discipline during the week, and all personal fouls are reviewed by the league each and every week, and additional discipline is always possible up to and including suspension.”