Looking at the Hits

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If you look at all three hits that got fined by the NFL, it goes like this in my humble opinion.

Brandon Meriweather on Todd Heap. Should be penalized and fined. A possible suspension because it had all the elements involved. Defenseless receiver, launching and leading with the helmet. Bill Belicheck sat Brandon’s butt on the bench for a while. Belicheck knew he was wrong and did something about it. Remember that this was a zone cover two, and Flacco shouldn’t have thrown the ball with a closing safety if he’s got any concern over the health of a teammate. If you are going to put safety concerns involving bang-bang judgement calls on one side of the ball, then its only fair to put the same concern on the other side too. Note that this hit did the least amount of damage to all involved.

Dunta Robinson on Deshaun Jackson. Should not be penalized or fined. Robinson was doing what he’s supposed to do, separate the ball from the player. Robinson did not launch, nor was he trying to lead with his head. Jackson wasn’t defenseless (in an extended position). It’s a crossing route Jackson was on and all receivers know on a crossing route they can better protect themselves if they hook it up and find an open window in zone coverage.

James Harrison on Mohamed Massaquoi. Should not be penalized or fined. Massaquoi was also running a crossing route. Harrison was in zone coverage. In the immortal words of an old locker room friend of mine, the immortal Stubbsy, “Hook it up strong!”

Massaquoi caught the ball, ran two steps, sighted Harrison, fumbled the ball, lowered his base and leaned back while dropping his chin. Harrison closed, lowered his base, struck the rising blow Chuck Noll always talked about, and finished in extension, which is totally different than launching. Nor was James leading with his head. James looked to be aiming for the waist area until Massaquoi bent down.

What do all these plays have in common? Zone coverage. Should the NFL copy the NBA and outlaw zone coverages and make them play man only coverage? The scores will resemble arena ball too. Is this what Pete Rozelle had in mind?

These hits are unfortunate, but you can’t legislate in a time frame to make a decision which occurs in about as long as it takes to sneeze.