BEREA, Ohio - Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward is appealing a $25,000 fine for a hit he maintains was legal under the NFL's rules on helmet-to-helmet contact.
Ward received a letter from the league Wednesday informing him of the penalty for hitting Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree on Sunday. Ward said replays conclusively show he did not touch any part of Ogletree's head. Ward was called for unnecessary roughness, a 15-yard penalty that helped the Cowboys' drive that set up a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds of regulation.
Dallas won 23-20 in overtime.
"It was completely legal," Ward said. "I hit him in the chest as he was falling forward. No part of my helmet hit his helmet. No part of my shoulder pad hit his helmet. I think it was a blown call and a blown punishment.
"It's not even fair. It's not fair at all and if you look at the hit a thousand times, it's not an illegal hit at all."
Ogletree sustained a concussion and has been ruled out for Thursday's game against Washington. Browns cornerback Buster Skrine also suffered a concussion during the play when he collided with Ogletree just after Ward delivered his blow. Skrine did not practice and Browns coach Pat Shurmur said the second-year player "is going through the (concussion) process."
Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron defended Ward, saying he "did not see any helmet-to-helmet contact on the play."
"I saw the replays multiple times," Jauron said. "I don't know if anybody else did. I don't know, they have to figure it out. But I don't know what you tell a defensive player (anymore)."
Ward believes Commissioner Roger Goodell and league officials are taking the correct steps in cracking down on hits to the head for player safety. But the rules have made it "ridiculous" to play defense.
"The funny thing is, it won't change it." Ward said. "Things are going to happen. The next thing is you're going to see guys with blown out knees because they're going to start to get hit low and before you know it, that's going to be illegal and we'll start getting fined for that. I think it's taking away from the game."