Yesterday, in a quick note before Mike McCarthy’s press conference, Jason Whalers, the director of the Packers public relations, stepped in front of the microphone and announced that D.J. Smith was done for the year.
The announcement went without fanfare, and wasn’t much of a surprise. Texans player Duane Brown blocked Smith from the side and Smith’s knee appeared to give out. It was a block that drew no flag on the field of play and yet was a season ending hit.
Cut blocks and chop blocks as a scheme have been around since the late 1970’s. As a way for slower and generally less athletic offensive linemen to take down defensive players, the block was not supposed to be dangerous. Offensive linemen and tight ends would lower their bodies and go for a defensive player’s legs, causing them to stumble or have to jump over the tackler allowing for the ball carrier to run on by.
But like many things in life, what appeared simple on paper turned ugly in real life. Offensive players began using a chop block when a defensive player was double teamed. One offensive player would engage the defender up top and the other would go for the legs, a highly dangerous play. The NFL wised up and chop blocks like that are illegal.
The NFL also outlawed the blocking technique on kicking plays as returners, blockers and gunners are often blindsided by the block and were getting injured.
Yet, the cut action on a not-engaged player remains in a fuzzy, but legal, area. The player is supposed to know the block is about to happen. An offensive player is not permitted to “peel back”, run back to the play from beyond it and initiate a cut block from the side or behind.
However, it appears that is exactly what happened to the Texans Brian Cushing in Week 5 and to the Packers D.J. Smith in Week 6. Both players were taken out from either the side or from behind by a blocker returning to the play. While neither was called a penalty in game, Jet’s lineman Matt Saulson, received a $10,000 fine from the NFL for his hit on Cushing.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, the NFL Owners are meeting in Chicago and it is time they clarify the rules on cut blocking and chopping.
The NFL has made strides in recent years to protect offensive players. They have clarified that any hit to the helmet or on a defenseless player is illegal. The NFL has taken pains to make advances on reporting head injuries and caring for the long term effects of repeated hits.
While some believe that Roger Goodell is making the league soft, it is all done under the guise of safety. With advanced medical knowledge and witnessing the often debilitating injuries that many former players live with, the NFL is attempting to play prevent. Yet, defensive players remain “defenseless”.
Often the scapegoats and fined players, defensive players are charged with reworking tackling techniques, while the NFL looks the other way when a defender’s season and possibly career can be ended with one hit. This blatant hypocrisy must end. Defenders are people too. And their knees and seasons and lives are important. The NFL owners need to spend this time taking a serious look at cut blocks and start protecting the defenders as well.
Jayme Joers is a writer at CheeseheadTV’s Eat More Cheese and co-host of CheeseheadRadio. She also contributes to Pocketdoppler.com. You can contact her via twitter at @jaymelee1 or email at [email protected].
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