New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has seen a bone crunching helmet-to-helmet hit on tight end Jimmy Graham enough times by now to have it permanently seared in his brain.
The hit occurred in the second quarter of the Saints’ 16-14 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. With Graham already in the process of being tackled, defensive back Ahmad Black, leading with his helmet, came from the other side to slam forcefully into him.
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Black was promptly flagged 15 yards for a personal foul and will likely be fined by the league.
“I’ve seen it on video, I’ve seen it on TV and I’ve seen it on coaches tape,” Payton said Monday.
In the wake of a recent NFL memo telling teams to stop commenting on other club’s players, Payton was careful about his wording when talking about the play.
But that doesn’t mean he was happy about it.
“It doesn’t matter if it upset me,” Payton said. “Certainly I get frustrated for a player, but that’s nothing that I can control.”
The hit was a footnote in the wake of Graham’s big game, where he caught 10 passes for a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown. More impressive, he bounced back from the hit and didn’t leave the game.
“That was a good hit,” Payton said. “Obviously a tough hit to take, but he came right back up and made a number of big plays in this game. He had an outstanding game. He was physical, changed field position for us and was very focused, he was outstanding.”
Graham looked no worse for the wear following the hit, as he caught a 29-yard pass from quarterback Drew Brees two plays later. The play was initially ruled a touchdown but reversed after it was determined he was down at the 1-yard line.
“I think it could have definitely been avoided,” Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton said of the hit. “I think it starts with practice. You have to lower your target and as a defender, the league is concentrating on safety measures. You have to lower your target and I feel like those hits could have definitely been avoided.”
Bucs safety Dashon Goldson also was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on running back Darren Sproles. He was suspended by the league on Monday for his repeated history of such hits.
“It was great to see Graham take the hit, get back up and end up a couple of plays later catching a seam right through the middle of their defense,” Payton said. “And he ended up being the difference for us with the plays he made.