Stephon Gilmore’s Major Fine Draws ‘Egregious’ Reaction From Ex-Colts CB

Stephon Gilmore

Getty Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore high-fives a fan after a game.

During the Indianapolis Coltshistoric loss to the Minnesota Vikings on December 17, Colts cornerback Stephon Gilmore was flagged for unnecessary roughness due to a high hit on Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

On December 23, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the league fined Gilmore $15,914 for the hit, prompting instant social media reaction.

Former Colts defensive back Darius Butler, who played for the Colts from 2012 to 2017, contributed to the conversation by calling the fine “egregious.”

A retired nine-year NFL veteran, Butler included a screen grab of the hit, implying that it was not illegal. He even reacted to the tackle as it happened during the game:

Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner was also fined $15,914 for a hit on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Buckner was issued a roughing the passer penalty during the game.

Stephon Gilmore’s Tackle in Question

Gilmore seemed like he tried to lead with his right shoulder on the tackle. In real-time, however,  it looked like his helmet appeared to hit Jefferson first. The impact, height of the hit and Jefferson being a defenseless receiver were factors in the unnecessary roughness penalty and eventual fine.

After the play initially occurred, Vikings players and coaches were calling for Gilmore to be ejected from the game. Despite the penalty, Gilmore remained in the game without further incident.

With Jefferson airborne, one could argue that there wasn’t much else Gilmore could have done while trying to make a play.

In fairness, however, Gilmore did appear to “launch” into Jefferson to make the tackle. Launching, or springing forward and upward into a defenseless player is considered unnecessary roughness, per Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8 of the NFL rulebook.

St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson tweeted that Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said violent hits on Jefferson, the NFL’s leading receiver, have been a recurrence in recent weeks.

“Clearly there’s an emphasis on the teams we’re playing that some of those hits, they don’t just seem to be by accident at times,” O’Connell said.

First-Year Success

Gilmore is widely respected throughout the NFL for his playmaking ability and clampdown coverage. The unnecessary roughness penalty is a small blemish in yet another solid year for the 11-year pro and first-year Colt.

Even in his age-32 season, continues to play at a high level. He has two interceptions, 11 passes defended and 59 total tackles — just two less than the career-high he tallied as a rookie in 2012.

The former first-round pick out of South Carolina also leads a defense that ranks 10th in passing yards allowed per game (205.6). He’s only allowed 48 receptions this season, which is tied for the 11th-fewest in the league.

It’s no surprise Gilmore was named a Pro Bowl alternate along with his defensive counterparts in Buckner, linebacker Zaire Franklin and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue — all of whom have stepped up with the absence of star linebacker Shaquille Leonard.

Gilmore doesn’t have 6 interceptions like he did in 2019, when he won Defensive Player of the Year with the New England Patriots. But in 2022, Gillmore is arguably having his most productive year since then.

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