"In other instances this contact might be illegal, since a defensive player has the responsibility to avoid unnecessary contact even when he is blocked by an opponent. However, in this case, the late slide and the block in the back were mitigating factors," NFL senior vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said in a statement.
Green, 36, one of the oldest starting quarterbacks in the NFL,
was going feet-first into a hook slide right in front of the Chiefs
bench. The Bengals' Geathers, possibly pushed from behind at least somewhat by
Kansas City wide receiver Eddie Kennison, came flying in. Geathers'
right shoulder slammed Green's chest and head and snapped the back
of Green's head violently to the turf.
Officials did not call a foul, explaining to the enraged Chiefs
sideline that Geathers' momentum had carried him into the player.
"In my opinion, I think it was a late hit. I think it was
obviously a very vicious hit,'' Chiefs president Carl Peterson said earlier this week, "one that
unfortunately Trent Green and the Kansas City Chiefs are paying a
However, the NFL disagreed.
The NFL concluded that Geathers was indeed blocked from behind and the Bengals defensive end even twisted his torso to avoid helmet-to-helmet contact.
"I couldn't have done anything different," Geathers said Wednesday,
choosing his words carefully and sparingly.
A source close to Geathers told ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli that the defensive end was prepared to appeal a fine, had one been forthcoming.
Anderson said quarterbacks who want to take advantage of the protection of a slide must start it before the prospect of imminent contact.
He cited a play in the Seattle-Detroit game as an example of an illegal hit. In that case, Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck broke out of the pocket and began a slide. Lions rookie linebacker Ernie Sims, who had the opportunity to avoid contact, drove his helmet into Hasselbeck while another defender, Cory Redding, jumped over the quarterback.
Sims drew a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. Anderson said the play is being reviewed for a possible fine.
Green spent two days in a Kansas City-area hospital for tests, but was released Tuesday. He's out for Sunday's game against the Broncos and a source close to the quarterback told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that he was likely to miss an additional game as well.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.