Shaun Chapas probably dreamt about making his NFL debut as long as he could remember.
There were likely a few moments when he would have paid someone for the chance to get his first chance at a pro football career. That's essentially what wound up happening on Sunday.
Chapas was fined $20,000 by the NFL for a blindside hit on Cardinals linebacker Reggie Walker during a Dez Bryant punt return in the second quarter of Sunday's loss. The NFL has made those kinds of hits a point of emphasis on their rather haphazard attempt to improve player safety this season, leading to the outsize fine on Chapas even though Walker was pursuing Bryant and the block was nothing we haven't seen for years in the NFL.
How outsize? Chapas' game check for Sunday was a little bit more than $22,000. So a player in his first game and, obviously, no history of running afoul of the league's disciplinarians, had to sacrifice nearly his entire game check for a play that players have been taught to make since the dawn of football.
That makes absolutely no sense. Fine Chapas if you like, but at least have the decency to make the punishment fit the crime. What Chapas did came in the flow of the game without any specific intent to injure Walker.
Compare that to what Eagles defensive end Trent Cole did on Thursday night. At the end of a running play that saw Seahawks tackle Russell Okung block Cole legally right up to the whistle, Cole grabbed Okung's arm and held onto it as he hiptossed Okung to the ground. Okung wound up with a torn pectoral muscle, ending his season, while Cole escaped any penalty on the play.
The league fined Cole $7,500 for the play which was, at the very least, a case of blatant unsportsmanlike conduct. Because it happened outside of the normal flow of play and, depending on your point of view, represented an attempt to injure Okung, you could argue that what Cole did wasn't much different than what Ndamukong Suh did on Thanksgiving.
Suh was suspended two games, largely because he has a history of crossing the lines imposed by the NFL. Cole has the same history, which makes it hard to understand why he was fined less than players who wear the wrong color shoes on the field and impossible to understand why he was fined less than Chapas.
The biggest problems with the NFL right now have to do with the way rules are enforced and interpreted. Whether it is hits to the head on defenseless receivers, what constitutes a catch or the way players are punished for things that happen on the field, the league has inconsistencies that make it impossible to believe they have a real interest in creating a product with enough transparency and common sense to create integrity.
Instead it is all about the whims of referees and Roger Goodell. That's a shame and a real black mark on the current game.