Much has been written and said this week about the hit that led to the fracture of the clavicle of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Linebacker Anthony Barr, now cleared from his concussion and able to talk to reporters, defended his actions on Friday when talking to reporters.
“I don’t play dirty,” Barr said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We don’t preach that around here. It’s unfortunate, the injury. I hate to see anybody get hurt.”
So why are people calling it a dirty hit?
“I think it’s a dirty play in some people’s eyes because of the injury. I think if he gets up we’re not having this conversation,” Barr said.
Barr is right. The hit was neither illegal, nor dirty. Rodgers had exited the pocket, and he chose to try to make a throw on the run with Barr closing in. Rodgers could have thrown it away the instant he saw Barr accelerate toward him. Rodgers could have hit the gas and run out of bounds. He could have slid or simply taken a dive.
Instead, he waited for tight end Martellus Bennett to break open a bit more before floating the ball in his direction, knowing full well that Barr was closing in, and that Rodgers was going to absorb a hit.
Rodgers may have underestimated the force of the hit. He surely assumed he wouldn’t hit the ground in a way that would break his collarbone. Regardless, there was nothing about the Barr hit that suggested driving him into the ground, hitting him unnecessarily late, or otherwise giving him the business.
If the NFL decides to change the rules to make roughing the passer the same as roughing the kicker, then it would be a different issue. Until there’s a rule that says quarterbacks out of the pocket can’t be touched if the ball is away, there will be nothing dirty about the hit that Barr applied to Rodgers.
Still, Barr understands the criticism — because if it had happened to a Vikings quarterback, Barr would be doing the criticizing.
“I think if it happened to my quarterback I probably would say it was illegal and the same thing just because you’re trying to defend your guy and you don’t want to see your player get injured,” Barr said, adding that he respects the opinion of Packers coach Mike McCarthy that the hit crossed the line.
The hit didn’t cross the line. It’s unfortunate that Rodgers was injured, but he took a calculated risk to willingly absorb a hit after throwing the ball, in order to give his intended receiver a little more time to not only catch the ball but also to run with it.