NFL hits Joe Mays back

This is the most chaotic of Roger Goodell’s time as NFL commissioner.

Yet in a time when the officiating labor issue has affected the integrity of the game, Goodell has taken control of one of his hot-button topics -- player safety. It will cost Denver Broncos’ middle linebacker Joe Mays.

The NFL suspended Mays for one game and fined him $50,000 for a violent hit on Houston quarterback Matt Schaub on Sunday. Mays hammered Schaub, whose helmet shot off his head. Schaub went down, holding his head in his hands in obvious pain. Later, he said he lost part of his ear on the play.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Mays is appealing the suspension. Mays has a reputation for being a good person and a respectful player. He twice apologized to Schaub on Sunday, and Denver coach John Fox has supported Mays.

Mays -- who was fined nearly $9,000 for a hit on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan in Week 2 -- said Monday in an interview with a Denver radio station that he knew he was in the wrong, but he made it clear his intention was not to hurt Schaub.

“What I was thinking is, I’m just reading my progression, my gap blocks, so I’m thinking, try to get to the quarterback as fast as I could, try to get him down before he gets the ball off,” Mays said in the radio interview. “I see him back there, I’m coming, I’m coming and I see him cock back to release the ball, but I’m still going to try to hit him so I can affect the release a little bit. So, he threw the ball, and he kind of ducked his head because he saw me coming. When he ducked his head, that’s when I came in and hit him. It looked worse than what … I mean, it didn’t look good. I’ll just put it that way. My intention was to go in there and get a hit on him, not hit him in the helmet. Unfortunately, that’s what happened.”

Mays admitted, “I guess I could’ve been lower.” Still, in the radio interview, it seemed Mays thought he’d be fined, not suspended.

“If you hit him like that, you can also get fined,” Mays said. "Who knows how much money they’ll take away from me? When it comes to quarterbacks, they’re definitely going to protect them. I’m waiting to see what’s going to happen to me.”

If Mays loses the appeal, he’d likely be out for Sunday’s home game against Oakland. The Broncos could use several players in his spot, opting for Keith Brooking, Wesley Woodyard and backups Danny Trevathan and Nate Irving if he is cleared after suffering a concussion against Houston. Denver might have to make a roster move at the position if both Mays and Irving are out Sunday.

Rules are rules. It was a brutal hit. I was there, and I could feel the hit from the press box. I don’t think Mays’ intentions were bad. I believe his explanation, but the NFL has strict helmet-to-helmet rules. I don’t think Mays has a lot to complain about, especially a week after he was fined for a hit on Ryan.