METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees praised San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks as a "hard-nosed, clean football player" Tuesday and said he didn't think there was anything malicious or intentional about Brooks' hit against Brees that resulted in a personal-foul penalty on Sunday.
But Brees said there was no doubt in his mind that the penalty was well-deserved -- a topic that has been much-debated over the past two days by 49ers players, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and many national analysts.
Although Brooks first made contact with Brees around his shoulder and chest, it quickly turned into a clothesline tackle across Brees' neck.
"I think anyone that was watching the game real time, live speed, nobody's gonna sit there and say 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. ...
"I can tell you how I felt when I got hit. It felt like I got my head ripped off. 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.'"
Again, Brees wasn't critical of Brooks. He was merely responding to the questions about the uproar over the subject. He had fun with the topic -- joking that "it looked like I went go-go gadget neck" and comparing himself to a "crash-test dummy."
"I assume there was probably defensive players that disagreed?" cracked Brees, who had heard that Lewis offered to pay half of Brooks' fine if one is levied.
When told that Lewis also said Brees was fortunate to only be 6 feet tall, because the hit would have been clean if he were 6-5, Brees said, "Well, there'd be maybe a lot of other things I could do if I was 6-5, too. But I'm not complaining. I guess it pays to be 6-foot."
Brees even showed sympathy for defensive players who have to deal with such a limited strike zone when it comes to hitting quarterbacks and defenseless receivers. Just a few weeks ago, Brees was on the sideline offering tips to Saints cornerback Corey White after White got flagged for two similar personal-foul penalties of his own.
"I'm a quarterback, so I benefit from that," said Brees, who doesn't think the rules have become too strict. "But it makes it extremely difficult for pass-rushers and I think safeties -- you know, guys that are hitters and then guys going after the quarterback. Especially guys going after the quarterback, because there's so many compromising positions that guys are in. You know, you're battling a guy, and all of a sudden the quarterback's there. And a lot of times, they're swiping at the ball and they catch a part of your head."
Saints coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan agreed that it has become a tough balance for defensive players. They mentioned examples such as White's penalties and a penalty against safety Malcolm Jenkins from earlier this season. Jenkins actually had a fine rescinded when he appealed his ruling.
But the coaches said everyone is aware of the rules they're dealing with.
"Those are the rules. You don't have to like the rules but you gotta play by 'em," Ryan said. "Those are things you have to constantly coach. The best thing about this game is the players. I think the safety of the players is something that everybody is coaching."
Payton also added that those tough calls tend to swing both ways.
He said in the Saints-49ers game alone, the Saints had to absorb some of their own bad breaks. Then he saw it again a night late on the controversial no-call that ended the Carolina Panthers' victory over the New England Patriots.
"The pass interference on Corey in the second quarter was a big play that went against us that ended up resulting in a field goal for them. The intentional-grounding call on Drew was incorrect, and that ended up being a significant play," Payton said. "You saw a game last night which ended in a real -- I want to use the correct term here -- unique way."