The Denver Broncos have a lot going for them this season. Quarterback Peyton Manning is on a record pace, and the team sits comfortably with a 7-1 record after defeating the Washington Redskins on Sunday. However, Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson has been a blemish that continues to tarnish a stellar 2013 campaign.
Vickerson—an eight-year NFL veteran—recorded an extremely late hit on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III during Sunday's contest which resulted in a personal foul. The defensive tackle laid out the second-year quarterback long after the ball was thrown.
This was not Vickerson's first offense.
Just last week against the Indianapolis Colts, Vickerson was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after striking center Samson Satele's right knee. Vickerson delivered a vicious blow, as the defensive tackle punched the center's leg at a downward angle.
This type of malicious intent has no place in the NFL.
Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared to feel that the incident warranted more than just a 15-yard penalty. Vickerson was eventually fined $10,000 by the league for his actions against Satele.
After the game, Vickerson was interviewed by Lindsay H. Jones of USA Today and was asked about the play:
When you get calls that don't go your way, you get cheap shots and [crap] like that, but still get called against you, what are you going to do then? You try to play through it. But at the same time, it's frustrating, when you know you did everything right. You know what I mean?
The guy kneed me in my head and jumped on my neck, and I got called for it. It's on tape. At some point during the game, I blacked out. It is what it is.
Even if Satele was getting chippy in the trenches, there is never a good reason to attempt to harm another player. From Vickerson's comments, it appears as though the officiating fed into his temper, which was taken out on Satele and quarterback Andrew Luck.
During the fourth quarter of the game, Vickerson was called for late contact with Luck—yet another personal foul on the day. Vickerson did not think he was at fault this time around:
I was trying to turn and run, and he was right in my way. I didn't hit him hard, I didn't try to touch him, but I did. A penalty is a penalty.
Regardless, after his antics earlier in the third quarter, Vickerson will find himself targeted by officials on these calls. They will always err on the side of caution when it comes to player safety.
Vickerson painted a huge bull's-eye on his back.
The defensive tackle did not help his cause any further after his hit on Griffin during Sunday's game. Multiple personal fouls—including a fine—in two weeks is not a good sign going forward.
After watching his hit on Griffin, there is good reason to believe that Vickerson will be fined again this week. He is swiftly climbing the ranks of the "NFL's Most Wanted" and may hold a place next to the notorious Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions in the eyes of the officials.
Vickerson has started all eight games for Denver this season; however, he holds a marginal two-year contract. According to Spotrac.com he is set to make a $1.75 million roster bonus in 2014, which brings up an interesting point of discussion: Should the Broncos part ways with the defensive tackle if his behavior continues?
A player with Vickerson's attitude could quickly turn into more of a liability than an asset. He has just 10 total tackles and zero sacks through eight games this season. Is that kind of marginal production worth the risk?
One thing is for certain: A keen eye will be kept on Vickerson by the team and the league for the foreseeable future.
The NFL's new problem child has been recognized.