The swinging of Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito’s helmet at him by Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith has all but obscured a moment from the same game that had a far more permanent consequence for a member of Miami’s team.
Tight end Dustin Keller has been lost for the year after a low hit from Houston safety D.J. Swearinger, who has explained that he went low due to concerns that going high would draw a flag.
“It’s crap,” Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline told WQAM’s The Joe Rose Show regarding the explanation. “I mean I think that, me personally, if you’re telling me, ‘Oh, I’m so worried about going high or hurt[ing] the head,’ you consciously went low then, is what you’re trying to tell me.”
The incident highlights the ongoing balance the league and its players are trying to strike. While players would rather have a concussion than a torn ACL, the NFL isn’t getting sued for failing to protect players from torn ACLs. (Yet.)
Still, there’s an unwritten rule among players about hitting a guy low, given the potential impact on his playing career and earning capacity.
“I have a lot of good pros on my team, and from what they have said to me is that there is no place for that in the game today,” Hartline said.
Plenty of other players feel the same way. As a result, we’ve got a feeling the NFL eventually will establish a quarterback-style strike zone for all players, at all time.
At a time when plenty of players are complaining about rules limiting the ability to hit the head or use the helmet, it’s hard to imagine that any would complain about losing the ability to sweep the leg.