Tony Gonzalez is the latest player to criticize Houston Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger for his questionable tackle that ended Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller’s 2013 season.
According to Jim Corbett of USA Today, the Atlanta Falcons' veteran tight end had a lot to say about that particular incident and low hits in general.
Here is a look at Swearinger's hit:
Gonzalez admonished the young safety for his decision to lunge at Keller’s knees and vocalized how most players feel about defenders attacking the lower leg:
That was ridiculous on his part. It should be a fineable offense. That's just not part of football -- hitting a defenseless player in his knee, that's something we all dread as players. That's my nightmare. Hit me in my head (instead). Any player who does that, I don't like it at all. I have no respect for that.
He’s not the only one to sound off on this increasingly dangerous issue, as Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears used Swearinger’s hit to point out the hypocrisy within the league office.
Dean Blandino, vice president of NFL officiating, recently spoke about both of these hits:
Swearinger’s potentially career-ending hit on Keller went unpunished, which is something Gonzalez is clearly upset about:
I'd rather have a guy hit my head than knife at my knee. You're talking about a career-ending injury. It's going to be so hard for Dustin to come back off of that. It should be a fineable offense, just like going for the head is.
The outspoken tight end believes that defenders must find a happy medium between hunting for opponents' heads and diving at their knees:
I just don't want defenders to be able to hide behind, “Well, I can't hit high. I have to go low.” No, you don't. That's not what the rule is saying at all. It's not saying to go low. I keep seeing the debate (on TV) and all these people saying, “They're forcing defenders to go low.” No, they're not. That play was ridiculous. All you have to do is hit him right in his waist and knock him back.
Swearinger defended his hit on Keller by saying he was just trying to stay within the rules and use his instincts to make a play.
With the issue of concussions and post-football trauma coming to the forefront of the national discussion, the NFL is under increased scrutiny from the media, fans and former players to clean the game up.
While the elimination of helmet-to-helmet hits is a smart goal that the league is working relentlessly to accomplish, NFL decision-makers must also strive to make the game safer for current players by discouraging the sort of low hits that can do serious damage and potentially end careers.
Hopefully some good can come out of Swearinger’s brutal hit on Keller, as a number of players and pundits are absolutely outraged by the way the league has handled the issue, and they are making it known.
If it forces a change in rules—or even a clarification of what is legal and what is not—Keller will not miss the 2013 season in vain.