Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall and safety Darian Stewart both expected to be fined after a series of helmet-to-helmet hits were levied against Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Thursday of Week 1.
On Wednesday, their suspicions were confirmed: Stewart received a $18,231 fine for his fourth-quarter hit on the QB and Marshall, who before the game made news by joining Colin Kaepernick's protest against racial discrimination during the national anthem, was fined $24,309 for a hit in the third quarter.
Theirs were two of four questionable hits against Newton.
Only one—Stewart's—drew a penalty flag, for roughing the passer. The penalty was offset by an intentional grounding penalty during the Panthers' final drive, which resulted in a missed Graham Gano field goal that would have saved Carolina from a 21-20 defeat.
“It didn’t [look good on replay]. And that’s fine,” said Marshall, whose $24,309 fine is the minimum for impermissible use of the helmet, back on Monday. “I don’t want to say too much because I know they’re going to fine me. I’m going to get a letter.
“The guy is running at me, there’s nobody around and I leave my coverage — that’s how important it is. I leave my coverage just to try to hit him. … The guy, he ran the ball 11 times for, what, 54 yards? That’s a good day for a quarterback in my opinion.”
Stewart cited Newton's strength as size as his reason for using what some might call extreme measures, though he maintained he thinks his hit was legal.
"I thought I got him with my shoulder, too,'' he said. "But he's a hard player to tackle, he's so big, and when he runs, he leans like a running back, coming right at you.''
Marshall defended his team against accusations that their team is "dirty."
"We're not dirty. When I think of dirty, I think of stepping on somebody's ankle at the bottom of the pile, twisting somebody around," the linebacker said. "We just play hard, man. We hit hard. We play fast … we play faster than any defense in the league, in my opinion. Look at some of the dirty plays in the league. There's a lot of dirty players. That's not our M.O.''
Head coach Gary Kubiak seconded that notion.
"I disagree," he said on Monday. "We play hard, we're going to continue to play hard.''
Of course, these fines also mean that two other vicious hits that appeared to include the targeting of Newton's head were deemed clean by the league.
“The one call that I’m aware of that they missed when he was moving back to the offensive line, back to the line of scrimmage, and he pulled back up and went to (being) a passer,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on Monday of Marshall’s hit. “He gets that passer protection when he’s in the passing mode. But the defender used a technique that we’ve been trying to get out of the game, frankly. He left his feet and went to the head. It’s ultimately all about the technique that’s used, that’s coached. And we want to make sure it’s not.”