The low hit that ended Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller’s season has drawn a great deal of scrutiny. And it will be scrutinized by the NFL’s Competition Committee as well.
But while NFL V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said on NFL Network that the Competition Committee will review the hit in its ongoing effort to look for ways to make the game safer, Blandino made clear that Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger did not break any rules when he hit Keller’s knee.
“It is a legal hit,” Blandino said. “It’s an unfortunate result, something that the Competition Committee will continue to look at, as we do all injuries during the season. But it is a legal hit.”
So why is it a legal hit? Blandino said that Keller was a defenseless player on the play in question, but defenseless players are protected only from hits to the head or neck, and from hits with the top of the opponent’s helmet. Defenseless players are not protected from shots to the knees.
“Keller is considered a defenseless player — he’s a receiver attempting to catch the pass,” Blandino said. “And he’s protected in two ways. He’s protected from hits to the head or neck area, and he’s protected from hits to the body with the crown or forehead/hairline parts of the helmet. So those rules do not prohibit low contact.”
The Competition Committee may look to add rules prohibiting low contact, but any new rules protecting players’ knees will come too late for Keller.