Injuries have always been a part of any sport, but it seems that the NFL has been hit hard by devastating injuries as of late.
First, Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller was lost for the season on a hit by Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger. The hit was low and Keller suffered a dislocated knee cap and several torn knee ligaments. He might be forced to retire because of it.
Keller isn’t the only player who has suffered an injury from a low hit this preseason.
Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle suffered a knee injury on a block by San Francisco 49ers guard Joe Looney last Sunday night.
It was a similar situation to Keller’s in which Williams was hit directly on his knee. However, Keller was in the process of making a catch, while Williams was watching 49ers running back LaMichael James in the backfield and had no clue the block was coming.
The season is just nine days away from starting in Denver with Peyton Manning and the Broncos hosting the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and the talk surrounding these injuries haven’t slowed down.
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark isn’t pleased at all about what’s currently transpiring with these injuries caused by low hits.
“I’m so disgusted with the NFL right now about those situations,” Clark said via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “If an offensive player makes enough of a stink, they’ll change it. I know Tony Gonzalez was extremely upset about the hit on Dustin Keller. I understand that. I believe, and some of you may have the film, I said if you start penalizing guys and fining guys for hits up top … Some of these hits up top are not illegal.”
The new league rules state that peel-back blocks are illegal anywhere on the football field. The rule was changed in part because of a terrible injury that Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing suffered last October. Current Chicago Bears left guard and former New York Jet Matt Slauson hit Cushing low which tore Cushing’s ACL. At the time the peel-back block that Slauson made was completely legal as it happened in the tackle box.
A peel back block is “when an offensive player blocks a defensive player who is running towards his own end zone (from the side or behind),” according to sportingcharts.com.
The NFL mandated that all players must wear thigh knee pads this season excluding kickers and punters.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore believes its a “phony attempt by the NFL to make it look like they’re doing something for player safety. They care about protecting themselves, not players,” said via Twitter (@LanceMoore16).
“Wearing pants past the knees with leg pads won’t stop serious knee injuries! Stupidest rule ever,” Moore continued. “Those pads do nothing. Let us be comfortable.”
I agree completely with Moore on this subject, however with all the latest rules in player safety it seems as if the concern about these low hits hadn’t come into focus until late last season and this current preseason.
Fines have been handed out to many players this preseason, but none of them have been given to the players who made the low hits.
Bears’ rookie linebacker Jon Bostic received a $21,000 fine for his hit on Chargers wide receiver Mike Willie in Week Two of the preseason. Bears’ safety Anthony Walters also received a $15,750 fine for his hit on Raiders wide receiver Rod Streater last Friday night. Streater suffered a concussion from the play. No flags were thrown on either play.
“The Bostic hit is illegal because he used the crown of his helmet to deliver a forcible blow to the body of the receiver,” NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said via NFL.com. “For this hit to be legal, he has to get the helmet to the side and use the shoulder to deliver the blow or hit the receiver with his head up.”
Here’s to hoping the NFL focuses on these low hits, but doesn’t alter anything drastically because pretty soon defensive players might not be allowed to do much actual hitting on the field.