It looks like we're in for an intense week of discussion about illegal and/or dirty hits here in the NFC North. As we await news from the NFL about a possible discipline for Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, we learned Monday afternoon that the Chicago Bears have lost right guard Lance Louis for the season because of a torn ACL suffered on a blindside hit by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen.
The play occurred with 12 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in the third quarter of the Bears' 28-10 victory over the Vikings. Allen was blocking for Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was returning an interception, and spotted Louis giving chase. Louis didn't see Allen, however, and his left leg twisted awkwardly when Allen launched his right shoulder into his right shoulder. Allen might also have hit Louis' helmet as well.
Allen told reporters that he thought it was a legal hit, but Bears coach Lovie Smith was among those who fell short of agreeing with him.
"Jared Allen plays the game a certain way," Smith said Monday. "[He is] a good player in our league. I think there are some plays when you look at them again, you say, 'Hey, we could have done without that.' I think our game could do without that play. We have an injured player right now based on it. I think he could have gotten blocked a little bit differently."
The NFL will review Allen's hit and determine whether it deserves a fine or other discipline. We probably won't hear anything until Wednesday at the earliest on that. Officials did not call a penalty on the play, but for those interested, here is how Rule 12, Section 7 (b3) reads in the 2012 NFL rule book:
Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is: Illegally launching into a defenseless opponent. It is an illegal launch if a player (1) leaves both feet prior to contact to spring forward and upward into his opponent, and (2) uses any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/”hairline” parts) to initiate forcible contact against any part of his opponent’s body. Note: The provisions of (2) do not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or helmet in the course of a conventional tackle or block on an opponent.
One of the definitions of "defenseless opponent" is: "A player who receives a 'blindside' block when the blocker is moving toward or parallel to his own end line and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side."
Meanwhile, the Bears will have to decide how to replace Louis, who has been their most consistent lineman this season and was in line for a contract extension in the coming months.
Backup Edwin Williams could take his place if left guard Chris Spencer is healthy enough to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. Another option is Gabe Carimi, the Bears' onetime starter at right tackle who did a decent job in an emergency situation at guard Sunday.
Regardless, the Bears have now lost two starting guards -- Louis and Chilo Rachal, who left the team -- in a matter of a week. Stay tuned.