METAIRIE, La. Drew Brees doesn't believe there was anything 'malicious' or 'intentional' about Ahmad Brooks' head-rattling hit late in the Saints' win Sunday over San Francisco.
But what he does believe is the hit was illegal under the current rules of the NFL.
'I think anyone that was watching the game real time, live speed, nobody's gonna sit there and see that wasn't a penalty,' Brees said. 'Now, when you slow it down, it looks like he hits me here, kind of in the chest. But I get up and my mouth was bleeding.
'So, I don't know if you get hit in the chest and your mouth bleeds.'
The hit has been the talk of nationally syndicated sports radio shows as well as TV roundtables.
ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Ray Lewis said before the broadcast of the Patriots-Panthers game he would pay Brooks' fine should he receive one. SportsCenter dedicated an entire segment to the hit Tuesday morning.
Brooks sounded off after the game Sunday, telling the San Francisco Chronicle, 'I didn't hit him with my hand or my helmet. I basically bear-hugged him. That's just how football is played. I think this s is bull -. Football, the way they call stuff these days, it's watered down. It ain't real no more.'
Regardless of whether it's real or not, Brooks failed to hit the area Saints players say their coaches teach. It's torso or bust the way the rules are written now.
But that's easier said than done when the player being tackled is a moving object.
'That's the challenge for hitting the quarterback,' Saints Coach Sean Payton said. 'That's the challenge for hitting receivers. We talk about those areas and technique and it's when its moving and all of a sudden it becomes the neck area and initially your aiming point might be the shoulder pads.'
Said Saints defensive end Junior Galette, 'They teach us here to go after the ball. If you just get the ball and not hit him, it's a sack-fumble. It's a sack and a fumble. You don't really necessarily have to hit him.'
In the end, the player most affected appears to have the most sympathy for Brooks and defenders trying to tackle quarterbacks.
'It makes it extremely difficult for pass rushers and I think safeties,' Brees said. 'You know, guys that are hitters and then guys going after the quarterback. Especially I'd say guys going after the quarterback, because there's so many compromising positions that guys are in.'
Still, Brees is confident the play, which kept alive a drive that ended in a field goal instead of in a turnover, was a penalty.
'It felt like I got my head ripped off,' Brees said. 'And I get up and I've got a mouth full of blood. So there was no doubt in my mind that, 'Hey, it's gonna be a penalty.' '