Andrew Sendejo could be facing another stiff fine from the NFL after a late hit drew a penalty late in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Sendejo hit tight end Zach Ertz in the back as Carson Wentz’s pass sailed over Ertz’s fingertips, leading to an unnecessary roughness call that gave the Eagles first and goal with under two minutes to play.
The Vikings safety was fined $53,482 as a repeat offender following his Week 2 hit on Green Bay’s Davante Adams. Sendejo was previously fined and suspended for two separate violations in 2017. Most notably, his hit on Baltimore receiver Mike Wallace cost him a full game check worth over $173K.
Sendejo’s hard-hitting approach in the secondary has drawn the eye of NFL officials at a time when the league is attempting to protect defenseless receivers and reduce hits to the head. The 31-year-old also made headlines earlier in the season by wearing a “Make Football Violent Again” hat that clashed with the NFL’s efforts to crack down on player safety.
Head coach Mike Zimmer has often been Sendejo’s chief advocate, coming to his defense following his suspension last year and again on Monday after his latest infraction.
“I thought it was not a good call,” Zimmer said.
Fellow defensive back George Iloka was outspoken Monday as well.
“I told Sendejo, ‘I would have done the same thing.’ I would’ve hit him harder if I could,” Iloka said. “What are you going to do different? You’re not going to let the guy catch the ball.
“If the refs want to make a call like that, it’s not what football should be.”
NFL offenses are producing at a historic rate with teams currently passing for 35 more yards per game than last season and each team on pace to score roughly 50 points more than in 2017.
This comes one year after scoring hit its lowest point since 2009.
“Last year was the lowest scoring in the league in a long, long time, and they wanted to fix that and they obviously have,” Zimmer said. “They’re allowing things to happen – they’re allowing receivers not to get touched, they’re allowing quarterbacks not to get hit, they’re allowing people to hold. There’s a lot of things that when the league wants something, they’re going to get it. I think they’re getting it. That’s not negative on the league, that’s just the way life is.”
Zimmer also thinks that officials may focus on repeat offenders like Sendejo, whose reputation of open-field hits represent an aspect of the game the league might be trying to phase out.
Iloka doesn’t see the desired changes to be realistic.
“You can only take away so much physicality, but at the end of the day, for me to bring down another grown man who’s running full speed, it’s gonna be violent. … There’s no way to bring down another grown man gently.”
Sendejo’s previous fine cost him approximately a quarter of his game check, his third time losing money because of an illegal hit. Iloka, though, doesn’t believe NFL players can — or should — alter their playing style for fear of fines.
“If it’s a 50-50 play, you’re not gonna worry about the fine for the most part,” he said. “Unless they’re talking about suspending you, because if you start giving up plays like that then you’ll be out of job anyway. Ain’t nothing to get fined if you’re out of a paycheck, so you’ve got to make the plays you’ve got to make.”