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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

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“It kind of actually blew my mind”: Kyle Shanahan, 49ers players react to Dre Greenlaw ejection

Nov 13, 2022 at 9:54 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers gutted out a 22-16 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night. Unfortunately, they had to do it without Dre Greenlaw in the second half. Officials ejected the linebacker toward the end of the second quarter after ruling that he committed an unnecessary roughness penalty.

Most agree the penalty itself was warranted. However, it didn't seem like Greenlaw's actions deserved the ejection from the game.

The linebacker committed a helmet-to-helmet hit on Justin Herbert. It's worth noting that the Chargers quarterback was a runner on the play, and after a hit from 49ers safety Jimmie Ward, had his trajectory changed before impacting with Greenlaw. There wasn't much the linebacker could do to avoid the collision, and nothing made the helmet-to-helmet crash appear intentional.

A reporter asked head coach Kyle Shanahan if he believed Greenlaw deserved to be ejected after the penalty.

"No, I didn't think so at all," Shanahan responded. "It kind of actually blew my mind. I understand the penalty. I totally get that, right at the third-down marker. He was throwing his shoulder, but I've got to learn what that is. I get how it is with the penalties and stuff because I think he did hit his helmet.

"I haven't seen a replay. We'll see when I get home tonight and watch it again, but I thought there had to be intent in something unnecessary, and that was a big play right there. For us to lose Greenlaw for the whole game off that, that really shocked me. Hopefully, they can teach us that so we can understand why we lost one of our players."

Shanahan added that he did not receive an explanation for the reasoning behind the ejection during the game.

"That comes from New York," he noted.

The NFL senior vice president of officiating, Walt Anderson, confirmed that, explaining what they saw on the play.

"What the officials had was a flag for a player lowering his head and making forcible contact," Anderson shared with Matt Barrows of The Athletic, "and Rule 19 allows us when a flag is thrown to examine the play, and if we feel the action is flagrant, then the rule allows us to disqualify the player, and that's what we determined. It was a flagrant act."

While no one on the 49ers' sideline felt it was flagrant, Anderson did, attempting to explain why.

"The timing, the manner in which the player had an opportunity to make other choices and to make a different decision," Anderson shared. "Those all go into factoring whether something is flagrant. Those are just some of the factors that are considered."

Anderson adds that he feels Herbert was already down by contact when the hit occurred.

He added, "Whenever [Greenlaw] lowered his head and made forcible contact, the runner was already down on the ground. His knee was already down, and he was tackled."

Medical staff examined Herbert after the hit, but the quarterback returned to the game unscathed. After leaving the field, Greenlaw posted "Free me" on social media. Azeez Al-Shaair, who recently returned from the injured reserve list, replaced Greenlaw in the game.

"Definitely, that's a tough player to lose," safety Talanoa Hufanga, the hero of the fourth quarter, said after the game. "He's a guy that's so energetic, aggressive, a guy that goes out there and flies to the ball and makes the plays that he makes. But if you look at his backup in Azeez, he's just like him. They're very similar guys that can just flow to the ball, have a really good knack for it, and just continue to play their game, being fast and physical."

None of Greenlaw's teammates believe the linebacker was trying to intentionally harm Herbert. Greenlaw pleaded his case with the officials to no avail.

"It's a tough play," defensive end Nick Bosa said. "Stuff happens really fast out there. I know him. He's not trying to hurt anybody. He's just trying to make a play, and it is what it is."

Greenlaw finished with seven tackles before exiting ahead of halftime. The 49ers emerged with the win, improving to 5-4 on the season, but they obviously would have preferred to do it without the controversial ejection.

"Any time you lose your brother out there, that's frustrating," linebacker Fred Warner said. "Azeez came in and did a great job replacing him. He's obviously been in that position before, so he did a good job out there."

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