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Time to Cut the Cut Block

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Time to Cut the Cut Block

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 You can contact her via twitter at @jaymelee1 or email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (10) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

MarkinMadison's picture

Agree completely. Might also be nice to look back at some other hits and analyze how the rules could be improved to protect other players as well - e.g. Warren Sapp's hit on Clifton.

T's picture

Its time to have all defensive lineman and linebackers wear a Protective Knee Brace. All college offensive lineman and most NFL lineman already do, as a preventative measure.

redcheesehead's picture

a linbebacker could never wear knee braces on both knees. they would be immobile.

dat der Packer-backer's picture

The shame about all of this is that young D.J. gets an opportunity of a lifetime to step in and start inside linebacker for us with Bishop out, and is now out for the year. It's unconcionable the way some of these players conduct their play.

dat der Packer-backer's picture

Personally, I'd like to see players suspened for the duration of the injury they inflict on plays like that.

Beep's picture

Totally agree with suspending the cut block player for the length of the injury. NFL also needs to start kicking guys out, even if its for a quarter or a half. Hitting them in the pocket book doesn't change the habit, sitting on the bench does.

Tundrabum's picture

An outstanding suggestion.

Mojo's picture

Agree, especially with your last paragraph. Could you imagine dedicating years of training and hard work to your craft and have some a-hole take it away in a second with a cheap-shot. I've been telling people for years I didn't think allowing these type of blocks provided any sense of fairness. I wondered if I was a D-lineman might I just dive at some offending O-lineman's knee just for the hell of it to demonstrate to him what it's like. You'd probably get kicked out of the game for that.

I know some players play partially for the enjoyment, but for most it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to make great coin. To lose that ability because of something completely avoidable is a shame.

I'm surprised this only became legal in the late 70's. Thought it went back further.

Jayme Snowden's picture


I'm sure people were diving at knees since football started, but as a taught scheme/play call for o-linemen it is credited to Bobb McKittrick who was the oline coach with the niners from 79-99.

DrewTheDraftGuru's picture

+1: What else is there to say?

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