UPDATE: Former Boise State safety George Iloka, now of the Bengals, had his one-game suspension overturned by the NFL on Wednesday. He was fined $35,464.50 instead for the hit against the Steelers (more on that below).
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Veteran quarterback Drew Brees has missed just one start in his NFL career, so it isn’t likely third-string QB Taysom Hill will see much playing time at the position for the New Orleans Saints this season.
But Saints head coach Sean Payton found a way to get the former Highland High (Pocatello) and BYU quarterback on the field anyway.
After just four days of practice on special teams, Hill made his NFL regular-season debut in the Saints’ 31-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, recording two tackles on kickoff returns and scaring Panthers punter Michael Palardy into a fumble.
“This is a guy that’s 6-2, 235 and runs a 4.42,” Payton told The New Orleans Advocate. “That’s pretty good. That’s probably the fastest quarterback time in the last 20 years coming out of the combine. This guy is explosive. It just made sense.”
Hill played 12 special teams snaps against the Panthers, and his tackle of Fozzy Whittaker drew a smile and high-five from Payton. Hill also received the game ball.
“I was obviously surprised but at the same time excited,” Hill told the Advocate. “Whatever it takes to get on the field and whatever I can do to help the team win, I’ll do it. The more I can do in the NFL, the longer I can stick around.”
Highland coach Gino Mariani said Hill played only a handful of snaps on defense with the Rams, so Hill had to go through some extra drills with Saints defensive coaches to learn how to tackle, Advocate writer Rod Walker reported. Hill did serve as the Rams’ kicker and punter in high school, leading them to a state championship in 2008.
Even though he was short on experience on cover and return teams, Hill’s special-teams teammates praised his performance.
“Man, he was electric,” Chris Banjo told the Advocate. “He definitely had an impact on the game and left his footprint on it. He helped us take a step that we want to as a special-teams unit.”
ILOKA GETS SUSPENSION
The NFL suspended Cincinnati Bengals safety George Iloka for one game without pay for a violation of a safety-related playing rule.
The former Boise State player was suspended for an illegal hit to the helmet of Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the end zone in the fourth quarter Monday night when Brown was deemed to be a defenseless receiver. Iloka was not ejected from the game.
NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan handed down the punishment.
“On a play which began with 3:55 left in the game, you violently struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area,” Runyan wrote to Iloka, according to NFL.com. “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.”
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said Iloka plans to appeal the ban, which would force him to miss the Bengals’ home game this Sunday against Chicago.
FORMER IDAHO RB GETS TD
With future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson sidelined because of injury, former Idaho Vandal Elijhaa Penny saw more time on the field with the Arizona Cardinals.
In Sunday’s 32-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Penny scored his first NFL touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter. Penny finished the game with two carries for 4 yards.
COWBOYS’ LAWRENCE BACK IN SACKS LEAD
Former Boise State pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence ended a two-game drought with a pair of sacks against the Washington Redskins on Thursday.
Lawrence now has 13.5 sacks this season, which gives him a half-sack advantage over the Arizona Cardinals’ Chandler Jones for the NFL lead.