The one-game suspension of Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka was overturned and he instead received a $36,464.50 fine for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, the league announced Wednesday.
Iloka's initial suspension stemmed from the play when Brown hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass in the end zone from Ben Roethlisberger to tie the score 20-20 with 3:51 left in Monday night's game. Iloka was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play in the fourth quarter of the Bengals' 23-20 loss.
Iloka was suspended by NFL vice president of player operations Jon Runyan on Tuesday but NFL independent appeals officer Derrick Brooks overturned the ruling.
"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."
In his decision on Tuesday, Runyan wrote to Iloka that "you violently struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of 'eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game' and has encouraged the League office to suspend offenders for egregious violations such as the one you committed last night."
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who has been a longtime member of the NFL competition committee, felt Iloka's defense on the play was within the rules.
"There was a reference made that I thought was an overstate," Lewis told reporters Wednesday. "There were some plays that happened last season; they were brought to attention after the season of the membership of the competition committee and these weren't those kinds of plays, plays that happened within the scope of football.
"We've done a lot of changes, revisions and so forth with how the game is taught and yet this is still going to be, at the end of the day, football. Because it occurs on Sunday afternoon or Monday night or Sunday night I don't think it should be looked at any differently."