Why the Washington Redskins Must Make an Example of Brandon Meriweather

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 29, 2013

Oct 13, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Washington Redskins strong safety Brandon Meriweather (31) walks off the field after the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins 31-16. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Somebody for the Washington Redskins needs to teach Brandon Meriweather a thing or two about public speaking. In fact, they can save themselves the effort and just go ahead and cut him.

Meriweather needs to be made an example after his latest success embarrassing the franchise. Less than two weeks after being hit with a one-game suspension for a pair of helmet-first hits, contrition appears to be the last thing on Meriweather's mind.

In an almost sneering act of defiance toward the NFL's rules on player safety, Meriweather had this to say about how he will approach tackling in the future, via The Washington Post's Gene Wang:

To be honest, you’ve just got to go low now. You’ve got to end people’s career. You’ve got to tear people’s ACLs and mess up people’s knees now. You can’t hit them [that] way, you can’t hit them high anymore. You’ve just got to go low.

Sarcasm is definitely the wrong approach to take after already running afoul of the league office. Given Meriweather's history, this comment has done nothing more than keep the issue alive.

It means in the build-up to Week 9, with the Redskins' season in the balance at 2-5, the team has to dedicate time to this public relations catastrophe.

Head coach Mike Shanahan has already been pulled into the debate, via The Washington Post's Mike Jones:

Well, I’m not sure if I would have used those choice of words. I think I would have used different words, obviously. What happens with DBs a lot of times, when a running back is coming at you, do you hit them low or do you hit them high? Well most of those DBs, especially corners, they go low, and they have to go low because they can’t take people head-on. Safeties are a little bit different. They will take people head-on. Now those safeties have to go lower and it’s just part of the game. Nobody’s going to try to hurt anybody, but if you’re going to err on the side of caution, you would rather go low than you would high.

Shanahan has been forced into softening the words of a player who had already cost his team in Weeks 7 and 8:

Brandon knows that he’s got to go lower or he’s not going to be playing in the National Football League, the coach said. You’ve got to hit in that waist area. You can’t go too low because you’re going to get fined there too. You know it’s above the knee and lower than the chin, somewhere in that chest area, and you’re going to have to step up because you can’t penalize your team and you can’t penalize yourself.

Shanahan will be lucky if that is all the public deflecting he has to do involving Meriweather this week. More than a perception issue though, Meriweather's comments will further hurt the team.

When he laid head-height hits on Chicago Bears' wideouts Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, he cost the Redskins yards and points.

He also earned a suspension that ruled him out of the trip to take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. That is just the sort of game where a team needs its strongest possible secondary players available.

Meriweather has now placed a large spotlight on both himself and the rest of Washington's defense. Officials will likely pay even closer attention to how receivers for the San Diego Chargers are treated in Week 9.

This is simply another costly gaffe from a player who has done little to help the Redskins since signing in 2012. Meriweather has consistently displayed a reckless approach to tackling.

In Week 2, he knocked Green Bay Packers rookie runner Eddie Lacy out of the game after a helmet-first hit. His unwillingness to adapt to the new rules opens the Redskins up to accusations of not taking player safety seriously.

This comes in a climate where the issue is at the forefront of league thinking. Gregg Williams and Sean Payton were banned for their roles in the New Orleans Saints bounty program, which offered monetary rewards for hits that stretched legality to the breaking point.

The Redskins were also smeared with the stain of Bountygate thanks to Williams' time in D.C. as defensive coordinator from 2004-07.

The team was also sued by former New York Giant Barrett Green this summer for "intentionally injuring an opponent." Green's career was ended by a low hit to the knee like the ones Meriweather describes, one that Green believes was deliberate.

Meriweather's words and actions are hardly glowing evidence of a franchise attempting to repair that damage to its image. In fact, they reflect badly on the whole league, a league that recently made a substantial settlement to end a lawsuit dealing with the effects of concussions.

Meriweather may have felt he was merely mocking the modern NFL's edict on tackling. But he ought to have known not everybody would appreciate his so-called sense of humor and blatant defiance.

The Redskins have already been accused of neglecting rules about player safety.
The Redskins have already been accused of neglecting rules about player safety./Getty Images

He has placed negative attention on a franchise that is already fighting a major perception battle. Owner Daniel Snyder will meet with commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss possibly ditching the controversial "Redskins" nickname altogether, according to ESPN's John Keim.

Goodell may also find time to chastise Snyder about letting one of his own employees display such a brazen contempt for today's rules.

Snyder and Shanahan should not keep propping Meriweather up, softening his public statements and making excuses for his dangerous playing style.

Shanahan must take the risk of weakening an already shaky secondary. Safety is the weakest position on the team, but in all honesty, Meriweather has done little to change that.

Being arguably the best of a very poor bunch should not be taken as license to play and speak without fear of consequences. In fact, it should be just the opposite.

Meriweather ought to be leading by example. He should be helping out youngsters like rookie Bacarri Rambo and Jose Gumbs.

But instead, his reckless abandon on the field and cavalier defiance off it are things the team can live without.

The NFL won't pursue disciplinary action following today's comments, according to USA Today's Tom Pelissero. But the Redskins should still act and act fast.

Showing it won't accept Meriweather's behavior, even if it means further damaging a weak position, is the right example for Washington to set.


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