49ers’ Kyle Shanahan baffled by Dre Greenlaw ejection

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan understands why quarterback Dre Greenlaw was fined for unnecessary roughness after Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert was hit with the helmet in the first half of Sunday night’s game.

But even after his team won 22-16 and improved to 5-4, Shanahan said he didn’t think Greenlaw should have been fired, and is still confused as to why the decision was made.

“It really blew my mind,” Shanahan said. “I understand the penalty. He had his shoulder down on third down, but I need to know what it is. I understand how it is with the penalty and stuff, because I think he hit his helmet. … but I thought it had to be intentional and unnecessary, it was a really big game. It really shocked me that we lost Greenlaw the whole way, so hopefully they can teach us that. We can understand why we lost a player.”

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Greenlaw was ejected with 30 seconds left in the first half after hitting Herbert. On third-and-6 from San Francisco’s 40, Herbert went over the middle to avoid pressure. As the quarterback tried to dive, Niners safety Jimmy Ward tackled him from behind and pushed him into Greenlaw, who was approaching from the right side of Herbert.

Greenlaw’s helmet collided with Herbert’s when Herbert came down at the Niners’ 35. Officials immediately flagged him, but deliberated for a moment before deciding to apply the penalty and eject Greenlaw.

According to Walt Anderson, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, the decision to throw a penalty on the field is made by the referee’s office in New York. When Greenlaw lowered his head and forced contact, New York officials had to determine whether the action was flagrant.

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Anderson says that “time and the way the player could have made different choices and made different decisions” factor into whether something is obvious.

Anderson said officials believed Ward’s first hit made Herbert a “down runner.”

“He was off,” Anderson said. “Never [Greenlaw] the runner was already on the ground when he lowered his head and forced contact. His knees were already down and he was embraced.”

Chase Daniel made the final three offensive snaps of the half for the Chargers (5-4), before Herbert went to the sideline and went to the blue tent for a concussion evaluation.

Herbert cleared the concussion protocol at halftime and returned to the game. He completed 21-of-35 passing for 196 yards and an interception and had five catches for 22 yards.

Greenlaw, who was returning from a calf injury, led the Niners with seven tackles at the time of his suspension. Azeez Al-Shair, who was making his debut off injured reserve with a sprained knee, replaced Greenlaw and had three tackles.

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“That’s a tough player to lose,” Niners safety Talanoa Hufanga said of Greenlaw. “He’s a very energetic, aggressive guy. A guy who goes out and flies to the ball, makes his own plays. But if you look at his stock in Azeez, he’s just like him. They’re very similar guys. Flow to the ball, play the game, be quick and physical. can.”

Greenlaw will face additional league discipline when the play is reviewed. That could include fines, fines up to suspensions and more, Anderson said.

“It’s a tough game,” San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa said. “Things happen really fast over there. I know him. He’s not trying to hurt anybody. He’s just trying to make a play. That’s what it is.”

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