Jerry Tillery Oct 1, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA; Las Vegas Raiders defensive tackle Jerry Tillery (90) has words with Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) after he was called for unnecessary roughness by referee John Hussey (35) with a late hit on Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) in the first half at SoFi Stadium. Tillery was ejected from the game. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is not like college football, in the sense that ejections aren’t handed out like they’re going out of style. The NCAA’s “targeting” penalty is one of the most fiercely debated rules in sports. It prohibits contact against an opponent that goes beyond making a legal tackle or block, and if a player is found guilty of committing a “targeting” penalty, they’re automatically ejected.

No such thing exists in the NFL, so it’s up to the referee’s discretion to determine what’s worthy of an ejection. In the first three weeks of the 2023 NFL season, Denver Broncos safety Kareem Jackson was the only player that was ejected. Jackson was penalized for launching at a defenseless receiver, Washington Commanders tight end Logan Thomas, who suffered a concussion as a result of the illegal hit. The NFL later fined Jackson $19,669 for the hit; he was not suspended.

But as of Sunday, Jackson is no longer the lone player in the NFL to be ejected this season. In the first quarter of a Week 4 matchup between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders, that distinction belonged to Jerry Tillery. 

After Justin Herbert escaped the reach of Maxx Crosby, he scrambled for three yards. The Chargers quarterback gave up himself and was out of bounds when he was struck by his former teammate. It was a flagrant hit and a late one at that.

In sticking up for their quarterback, the Chargers created a kerfuffle on the sideline. But that’s not what led to any ejections.

John Hussey and his crew elected to disqualify Tillery from Sunday’s game for his late hit. It was flagrant, and he was clearly in the wrong, which was indicative by the unnecessary roughness and personal foul penalty, but many, including CBS analyst Trent Green, were surprised that it led to his ejection.

You can audibly make out Green saying, “Holy smokes.”

Kevin Harlan, also surprised by the call, quickly turned his attention to CBS’ NFL rules analyst, Gene Steratore. And not to worry, Steratore did not put an asterisk on the ejection, as if he were ESPN’s John Parry.

“Yeah, this is a great job in New York,” said Steratore, who surprisingly agreed with the call on the field. “Look, in a situation like this, where Justin Herbert’s pulling up and Tillery now knows he’s pulling up and out of bounds, a hit this egregious in that situation, New York will weigh in, will have that conversation, view it, review it. And I think they made the proper decision, guys, to disqualify him for that action.”

Harlan erroneously tried to compare Tillery’s hit to Herbert to that of Joseph Ossai’s hit on Patrick Mahomes during last season’s AFC Championship Game. Ossai shoved Mahomes out of bounds, and the penalty helped Kansas City end up in field goal range, where the Chiefs ended up punching their ticket to Super Bowl LVII.

“Somewhat similar,” Steratore said. “It really felt to me, Kevin, too with Justin Hebert, that you can see in the replay, he’s going out of bounds. He’s pulling up. He’s literally giving himself up, right? And now he’s well into the white and you have such an egregious shot. You need to do something.”

While Hussey and his crew, in addition to New York, did something. Now, it remains to be seen if the league does something, whether it’s an ejection or a fine coming Tillery’s way.

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.