The NFL’s obsession with cracking down on launching claimed its first victim of the 2011 season on Sunday when 49ers safety Madieu Williams was flagged for a shoulder-to-shoulder hit on Seahawks tight end Anthony McCoy.
As McCoy was reaching up to grab a pass over the middle of the field, Williams hit him to jar the ball loose. As you can see in this picture of the collision in question, Williams led with his right shoulder — not his head — and made contact with McCoy’s right shoulder — again, not his head.
Williams should have been praised for making a good, hard, clean hit while avoiding helmet-to-helmet contact. Instead he was given a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, which set up a Seahawks field goal.
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh made clear after the game that he wasn’t happy about the penalty, saying Williams delivered “an extremely clean hit.” Harbaugh said he wants the league office to explain to him what was wrong with what Williams did, because he’s not sure what he’s supposed to tell his players to do.
Frankly, if the new emphasis on “launching” bans hits like the one Williams delivered to McCoy, I’m not sure what any defensive back is ever supposed to do. It’s admirable that the NFL wants to protect players from violent hits to the head, but what Williams did was nothing more than play football the way it’s supposed to be played.