Cincinnati Bengals: George Iloka's one-game ban reduced to fine

By Jeff Wallner, The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 6, 2017 at 5:37 PM
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CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka's one-game suspension has been overturned following appeal, and he will play in Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.

"Breaking news," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who was informed of the decision during his Wednesday press briefing.

Iloka initially was suspended for one game for making helmet-to-helmet contact while hitting Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown after his game-tying touchdown catch with 3:51 left in the Bengals' 23-20 loss on Monday night.

"There were some plays that happened last season that were brought to the attention of the competition committee and these weren't those kinds of plays, plays that happened within the scope of football," Lewis said. "At the end of the day ... because it occurs on Sunday afternoon or Monday night or Sunday night, I don't think it should be looked at any differently. That was brought to George's defense."

Iloka's appeal was granted by independent arbitrator Derrick Brooks, who is jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association. The league announced that Iloka will be fined $38,464.50 for the hit on Brown.

"We are grateful to appeals officer Derrick Brooks for reducing George's penalty from a one-game suspension to a fine equivalent to what players who were recently involved in similar plays received," Iloka's agent Ron Slavin said in a statement. "While we still believe George did nothing wrong on the play and the helmet-to-helmet contact was a result of Antonio Brown's lowering his head as he braced for contact, we felt and argued that a suspension was particularly egregious. We thank Derrick for acknowledging our concerns and making the proper decision."

Bengals players on Wednesday acknowledged the need for player safety, but took issue with the inconsistency surrounding the initial ruling on Iloka's hit.

Iloka's one-game suspension was equal to that of Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster who leveled Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict with a blind-side block then taunted him during Monday's game and Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski who leaped onto Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White and drove an elbow into White's head while he was on the ground.

"There's cheap plays and then there's football plays," said Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap. "The chance of getting hurt (in football) is high. But, you can't take cheap shots. George was trying to get the ball off him. People expect that play. They suspended him because they felt pressure to."

Iloka's winning appeal was important for the Bengals (5-7), who could be without Burfict, cornerbacks Adam Jones ad Dre Kirkpatrick, safety Shawn Williams, and linebacker and leading tackler Nick Vigil on Sunday, all of whom are injured.

"We're going to have guys step up and play," Lewis said. "That's why you have a roster built with 53 players. That's life in the NFL. We'll be ready to go."

Running back Joe Mixon also left Monday's game with a concussion. Both Mixon and Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, who remained hospitalized Wednesday with a serious back injury, were injured during contact they initiated.

"There are times when hits are going to happen," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "We understand the game of football is very physical. You have to protect guys as much as you can. You can't have stuff after the play. You can't have that happen. You have to do it the right way."

Dunlap does not think the NFL should impose more stringent punishments and said the current process of fines and suspension are working. The eighth-year player out of the University of Florida does not want to see the league impose the same ejection rules as college.

"I think they go overboard in college with the ejections," he said. "Some of those are football plays."

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