Brooks penalty puts NFL under microscope

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With the play still a hot-button subject, the NFL must now decide whether to fine San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks for his controversial hit Sunday on New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees.

It was one of the more controversial calls of the NFL season so far. Any potential fine is sure to come under close scrutiny.

It also puts the NFL under pressure.

The 49ers appeared to get the ball on a turnover with about three minutes to go, but Brooks was called for a personal foul for a hit to Brees' neck. It was a questionable call because it appeared Brooks hit Brees' shoulder more than the neck.

The 15-yard penalty gave the Saints new life, as New Orleans finished the drive with a game-tying field goal with 2:06 to go. The 49ers likely would have won the game had the penalty not been called.

There have been many opinions on the call, so any action by the league will be watched closely this week.

Personal foul penalties on quarterback hits usually result in a fine against the penalized player, so Brooks is probably in line to be docked. But that could create more controversy and be considered piling on.

On the flip side, if Brooks isn't fined, it could be construed as a message from the league that it was the wrong call. That could stir up a hornets' nest that the NFL doesn't want.

Further putting a spotlight on the issue, ESPN analysts and former NFL linebackers Ray Lewis and Tedy Bruschi vowed on the air to help Brooks with the fine if the league docks him. Yes, this story has legs.

In the end, my guess is that the league will fine Brooks and hope the story goes away quickly. But it could take the story to the next level.