SANTA CLARA -- Ahmad Brooks' penalized hit on Saints quarterback Drew Brees continues to draw ire around the league, from the likes of 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to even NFC West-foe Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals.
Much of that talk has centered on quarterbacks' "strike zone" — the permitted, upper-body area where they can be hit — and whether Brooks indeed hit that on his fumble-forcing sack late in the 49ers' 23-20 loss Sunday at New Orleans.
"In real time, he hit the guy in the right place," Fangio said Tuesday morning on KNBR 680-AM. "You talk about the strike zone, when you hit quarterbacks. He hit him within the strike zone. Then the impact of the hit and everything that preceded it was just the natural flow of the play.
"So for him to be penalized for that, I think is wrong. And if it's the right call, then it's a flaw in the rule."
Brooks' right arm hooked across' Brees' upper-body, impacting his right shoulder and sliding up to the quarterback's neck, which is an off-limits region according to the rule book that calls for a 15-yard, personal-foul penalty.
Dean Blandino, the NFL's Vice President of Officiating, might address the call later Tuesday on the NFL Network's "Total Access."
Brooks, teammates and several league observers disagreed with the call. Coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday he thought Brooks hit Brees at an acceptable point and didn't merit a negative grade among coaches.
Added Fangio: "When a 265-pound guy hits a much smaller guy, there's going to be impact, there's going to be head-whip. Whatever happens after that, sometimes you can't control. I definitely don't want to take the aggressiveness away from our players. He was being aggressive legally on the impact of the hit."
Protecting quarterbacks has taken on added emphasis by the league in recent years with the adoption of stricter rules guarding against injury-causing hits.
The Cardinals' Carson Palmer appreciates the improved safety measures but sympathized with Brooks' plight.
"If I look at it objectively, maybe you wouldn't call it as a penalty," Palmer said on "The Dan Patrick Show" on the NBC Sports Network. "But defensive ends and defensive players know that the way quarterbacks are protected these days, you've got to do what you can to keep your arms down, keep your head up and make that contact around the numbers."
Palmer, whose career got sidetracked by a 2006 knee injury, now has helped the Arizona Cardinals into a second-place tie with the 49ers, both with 6-4 records.
"For Ahmad Brooks to make that play, it's too hard for him to pull off and hit him lower," Palmer added. "Now you've got to hit a quarterback between the knees and the chest. This game happens so fast and there's so many bullets flying at the time of that contact, it's really hard to pull up and not hit him in the helmet.
"I totally understand. But it's hard for me to look at it from that way — I'm a quarterback."
Brooks, amid his postgame rant, wondered what he could have done differently. Then he added: "I guess I could have tackled him lower."
A similar situation flared up in the exhibition season, when teammate Tony Jerod-Eddie made a helmet-to-helmet hit on Kansas City Chiefs' Alex Smith. Jerod-Eddie claimed he merely was trying to hit Smith's "strike zone" -- above the knees, below the chin -- and that it shouldn't have been a penalty because Smith ducked his head into the hit.
"I didn't feel it was flag worthy, but they're always going to protect a quarterback," Jerod-Eddie said at the time.
Former NFL sack specialist Michael Strahan also sounded off Tuesday in Brooks' favor.
"That was such a clean hit," Strahan, an "NFL on Fox" analyst said on ESPN's "Mike & Mike." "It looked bad. When he hit him live, I thought he hit him right in the face. But when you actually had a chance to see it, that was so far from a penalty, in my opinion, on what a penalty should be.
"It was upsetting to me. Howie (Long) and I were sitting there (in the Fox Sports studio) beside ourselves, saying, 'At some point, you're not going to be able to touch a quarterback. We understand it's a quarterback-driven game, but you've got to give some respect to the guys on the defensive side."
Added ESPN co-host Mike Golic: "By the letter of the law, I get it's a penalty. But I'm so unhappy it's a penalty in the NFL today."
Two other ESPN personalities, retired linebackers Ray Lewis and Tedy Bruschi, have offered to fund Brooks' potential fine from the NFL. A day after Lewis offered up his credit card on the "Monday Night Football" set, Bruschi did so on "SportsCenter.
"Give me a third. I'm in, too," Bruschi said. "You get fined, I'm with you. Ray, I'm with you. Linebackers, we've got each other's back. Keep hitting him hard. Get tough Drew Brees."