Swearinger says rules made him hit Keller low

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A hit from Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger has apparently ended the season of Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller.

But Swearinger suggested that he might not have hit Keller as low as he did if not for the league’s emphasis on hits to the head.

“I was making a hit playing football,” Swearinger said, via Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post. “In this league you’ve got to go low. If you go high you’re going to get a fine. . . .

“The rules say you can’t hit high so I went low and I’m sorry that happened. I would think you’d rather have more concussions than leg injuries. Leg injury, you can’t come back from that. A concussion, you be back in a couple in a couple of weeks.”

Well, except for the possible long-ranging effects of what’s referred to medically as mild traumatic brain trauma, that might be the case.

Swearinger’s attitude might not be particularly enlightened, but it is real, and he’s not the only player who puts a higher value on limbs than brains.

86 responses to “Swearinger says rules made him hit Keller low

  1. he lined up for the knee, launched himself and aimed his helmet right for the knee. He did not attempt to use his arms,hands, or any other part of his body to make a tackle.

  2. The league is scared of the concussion lawsuits so they say you cant hit high.
    When all the injured leg players band together and sue the league, then Goodell will say you can no longer hit low.

    Then what Roger?

  3. Every player feels that way when next weeks game, their season, or even their career is on the line. Players have been hiding concussions ever since they’ve been documented. You can’t play with shredded joint tendons.

  4. The injury to Dustin Keller is

    The injury to Dustin Keller is my fear of this new helmit rule and my concern with preseason. Rookies and other players trying to make a team play clean and legal yet very aggressively in order to stand out. The question is how do you tune up the players who are making the team and just need timing with the unit. A very unfortunate accident for Keller and Dolphins.

  5. keller bet on himself with a one year deal and in a perfect world scenario, would have had a great year and really cashed in next year. now he’ll be a FA coming off a serious knee injury. i respect his risk-taking, but it looks like it might not work out, and def not how he envisioned it. too bad.

  6. Thats the popular theory by most players…they cant play with bad knees/legs, they CAN play with head injuries.

    Knee injuries can end your career early, and thus affect your earning potential greatly…assuming youre one of the MANY without a large contract. Even if you DO have one, a knee injury may make you miss out on 20-80 mil (depending on length of contract and position played).

    Head injuries..well those may of may not end up as something serious (usually pretty) long after their playing days. Your current earning potential is mostly in tact, unless your a habitual receiver of concussions.

  7. I agree that players are afraid of hits to the head because of fines.

    However, players should also be afraid of hits to the knees due to the high risk of injuries.

    If only there was some area of a player that defenders could target when tackling that’s above the knees…but below the head….

    If only that area existed! We could call it the “torso.”

  8. I don’t want to believe that this was an intentionally low blow but in watching it, dude was so low there was no place else to hit! I mean you can avoid the head without going in at the knee. There is a whole 5 feet of space in between on a guy Keller’s size. It’s not like Keller was lowering his head or anything. He hadn’t even turned around completely. Like I said I want to believe it wasn’t intentional but the film leads me to other conclusions.

  9. Whatever happened to wrapping the guy up with your arms? Today’s players are lazy, constantly going for the “kill shot”, launching themselves into players as opposed to tackling them.

    Yes, the new rules don’t help but poor technique, encouraged on by a league that wants to sell the big hit (without any of the liability) is as much of the problem.

  10. You can’t be ‘afraid’ on what part of the player you hit when you make a tackle. This is football there’s no time for that , you just tackle the guy and that’s it.

  11. I do not know Swearinger’s history nor should it matter in this case. The facts are, he will not get fined because he went low. I have no problem with his intent. There comes a point when you have to play football. When you have two grown men colliding at full speed something is going to happen. Lets stop making this sport into touch football and understand the inherent risks of playing it. Notice how these players take themselves off the lawsuit once they get another shot at playing football? Its a farse and I am wondering what happens once knee injuries enable current players from walking straight in the future.

  12. Wow. That was a terrible excuse. There’s a lot of body to tackle in between the head and knees. It seems like he was worried when it happened, but that comment scapegoating the rules afterwards is a bad excuse.

  13. The league needs to start suspending players who do this sort of thing. A $10k fine doesn’t mean much to most players, but a suspension might.

    I’m not a Dolphins fan, but I feel awful for Keller.

  14. Yes, because there is no room to hit between the head and knee on a 6’4 man….suuuuurrre

  15. Can we just go back to the old ways where we didn’t fine players for hits? Let’s let them police themselves. You hit our guy, we’re gonna hit you. It will prevent dirty hits more than any fine would. Plus, this is what they signed up for. You voluntarily joined a league where the possibility of you permanently damaging your body is very high. If you don’t like how it turned out, oh well. You were paid millions of dollars to sacrifice your body. You could’ve done a lot worse.

  16. Too many people think of Professional football like a video game. There is no “target” if you’re moving at high speed. We should be content that injuries happen inherently.

  17. I’m not happy with the result, but he is right. They are forcing these guys to change the way they have been taught to hit on the fly, and the only option is to go lower. Next step by Goodell and the owners will be flag football.

  18. It wasn’t ‘the rules’ as much as it was his refusal to actually tackle and not spear his head into whatever he could.

    There’s a lot of landscape between the knee and the neck you can go after but, again, that requires a player to actually tackle.

  19. The video of that injury is near Theismann-LT level gruesome. Hate to see that happen to anyone.

  20. For everyone saying that there is plenty of room to tackle between the head and knees, you’re absolutely right! But performing a perfect form tackle, at full speed, on someone who is bigger than you (Most TEs are going to be a little bigger than Safteys)… Yea not so easy. That’s why starting when you’re very young, your coaches also tell you to “go low”. Where can a person go if his legs are wrapped up? Nowhere… going for someone’s legs isn’t dirty, at full speed, yea it may look like someone is trying to take a knee out, but go play football with the neighborhood kids and try a perfect form tackle… and they’re only kids…

  21. For those talking about all that space between the head and the knees, remember that if the offensive player ducks so that his head is where his torso was the NFL does not excuse the defender. Not saying that’s what happened here but certainly makes many defenders aim even lower.

  22. If you think that hit was dirty then you don’t know football and physics. We talking about a small DB going against a 6’4 240+ TE, he would be a fool to try and tackle him up high or to the body he would lose that fight just like he did the week before to the viking s FB. Thats just part of football if he goes to high he get fined, go to the body and keller lower his head then he get trucked on national tv, small guys have no option but to go low. If it was a LB or DL it wouldn’t have happen because they can hold their own in size.

  23. Wow – People seriously think he was actually targeting his knee? Come on. He’s a rookie – why would he intentionally hurt Keller? He doesn’t have a reason. In fact, after the hit he walks over to look at him (no other players did)…Then after keller gets loaded into the cart, he runs over to him again. That doesn’t sound like the actions of someone intentionally targeting him now does it?

    This is all because of the emphasis on “player safety” aka the NFL trying to save face against all the concussion lawsuits… You go high – you get a fine, AND a penalty, which can be the difference between making the team and not, if you’re not a starter.

    Someone eluded toward “going for the torso” – please, almost anytime someone catches the ball and knows a hit is coming they immediately lower their head, lean forward and cover up..I’ve seen plenty of guys aiming for the torso only to hit the receiver’s head because he lowered his head.. not to mention defensive backs are trained to tackle bigger guys by their legs.

    Everyone called it as soon as these new rules went into place – there were going to be more leg hits and more serious leg injuries. Now people are acting shocked that it’s happening?

    Give me a break.

  24. Exactly Curtdog….apparently a lot of tackling experts have shown up here to talk about how dirty the hit was…wow….

    Suit up and put on some pads, and then tell me how to bring a guy like Keller down..

    Amazing how great the online “armchair” football tacklers are when it comes to tackling techniques.

  25. Everyone keeps talking about tackling a guy between the head and the knees. Ever try to pull down a 250 lb. all muscle guy going full speed? Tackling is already a lost art in the game these days. I’d imagine it would get even worse then.

    But, if the league is now going to make players wear knee pads, why not make them wear knee braces (all for safety of players of course).

    Maybe now more people can understand why players make the kind of money they make. D.K. may not get to play the game he loves again.

  26. I haven’t seen video but he right. Look at all the flag goldson had and all the players getting fine for making hits to the chest and hitting high. They are preaching to players to hit the big and fast wr/TE low. He merely did as coach and sure he didn’t want to injury another guy for the year. He simply fighting to start.

  27. Swearinger’s attitude might not be particularly enlightened, but it is real, and he’s not the only player who puts a higher value on limbs than brains.

    The reason behind a player putting a higher value on limbs instead of brains is the fact that they can fake the concussion test, but cannot fake a leg or arm injury. Staying on the field is how these guys earn their money. Every injury they suffer brings them closer and closer to retirement, which could lower their bank account funds drastically.

  28. So he won’t have a problem w/guys diving at the knees of Arian Foster and Andre Johnson? Me thinks Arian and Andre will be talking to this punk and telling him to raise the target zone.

  29. I’m not saying he did it on purpose, but what an idiot he is for running his mouth.

    “The rules say you can’t hit high so I went low and I’m sorry that happened. I would think you’d rather have more concussions than leg injuries.”

    So his choice of outcomes is as follows: Concussion, Dislocated Knee, or No tackle – Apparently clean hits that bring the receiver to the ground are out of the question.

  30. I wonder if the people on here complaining about the hit are the same people that complain about the rules concerning helmet to helmet contact. What does everyone want? You can’t hit them in the head and you call them dirty when they go low. What’s next for you guys? Do you want a predetermined “strike zone” for defensive players? This is football people! Injuries happen. Its a rough sport. Get over it.

  31. curtdog63 | Aug 18, 2013, 12:16 PM CDT
    We talking about a small DB going against a 6’4 240+ TE, he would be a fool to try and tackle him up high or to the body he would lose that fight….

    Well, then apparently the only thing keeping him from being a fool was the rule that encouraged him not to go high, according to Swearinger.

  32. A Texans draft pick at safety who takes knee shots as runs his mouth? Bernard Pollard Jr.


    Bitter Patsy fans need to get their facts straight. Pollard was a Chiefs draft pick who played for the Texans for a couple of years.

    There was nothing wrong with the Swearinger hit. The same tackle occurred 100 times this weekend.

    It was an unfortunate result for Keller.

  33. Some may think I am nuts but there are way too many games in preseason. Rookies are trying to make a team and get very aggressive. Veterans end up paying for it. NFL will never go for it due to loss $$$ but the first 2 games by rule should only be for rookies and 3rd string. Boring I know it I think it’s insane to lose good talent in preseason when we already know what they can do. According to most veterans I’ve heard interviewed, you don’t need 4 games to tune up before reg season

  34. You notice the more players worry where and when they can hit someone the more injuries are happening.

  35. It was a dirty, unnecessary, blind sided, low blow on a player in a defenseless position. I’ve seen the play a couple of times now, he targeted the Keller’s knee. Swearinger also got suspended by the SEC while at South Carolina for a dirty hit on a defenseless player.

  36. Why not go for his waste and just tackle him. Or wrap your arms around his ankles. Why was the first thing to hit him your helmet? Why do defensive players go for knock out shots?

    I miss the art of tackling.

  37. I was at the game. Lower level. About 25 rows from the action. Near where the play happened. Watched in in real time and in slow mo at the game, later on TV and on my laptop. What really happened is below.

    In real time, from my angle, I thought Keller took a helmet in the groin, ouch. Point is, most of us can’t even see what happens in real time these guys are going so fast. Yet we are pretty comfortable concluding a rookie went for someone’s knee. Yeah.

    Here is what happened: DJ’s hit came at the exact moment that Keller’s spinning leap landed – his full weight, plus extra force of landing, all on one leg. A few hundredths of second after he landed on ONE leg, one foot fully planted , DJ hit that leg at the knee. The knee, under full weight (not the usual 1/2 weight) of the body, PLUS the extra G’s generated by landing, gave way. Remember DJ had already launched himself to the spot he anticipated was the best place to collide and break up the play (see how football works if you are confused here.)

    Now DJ is a good rookie, but not good enough plan and launch himself perfectly enough to anticipate Keller’s twisting leap so well he would perfectly target and ruin another player’s knee as he landed on one foot. It just didn’t happen on purpose folks. No way. If DJ were that good, he would never miss a tackle.

    Bad luck. And maybe a bad rule.

    So look – it wasn’t so much that the knee was hit. It was a hit anywhere near the knee while the full weight was stretched out on one leg. He hits a little lower, and it would have been more gruesome. He hits a little higher, and I still think it still collapses the knee. This was a timing issue as much as a location issue. Go watch the vid before you thumbs down me. It is what it is.

  38. Is it really that difficult to hit someone between the upper thigh or waste and the shoulders? I mean, you can’t hit a guy in the head, but there is like more than 3 feet of target between the shoulders and the knees you can aim for. I hate seeing players go for the knees. Hit a guy in the stomach. Is it really that tough to hit a guy in the stomach?

  39. All these people saying “go after the waist”. Have any of you ever played football? Going after a larger mans waist to tackle him leaves great potential for him to spin and break the tacke. He can stiff arm you and you may never get around his waist or you may just bounce off of him. Many guys, especially RBs have a lot of power in their legs, and it doesn’t matter how strong you are, they’ll drag you. Have you ever heard the football expression “the lower guy wins”? Applies to tackling. Take his legs out and you put him on the ground. I don’t condone going after a guys knee with intent of taking it out. I don’t know many players that do. When you are running at full speed, trying to anticipate a players next move, sometimes you hit them where you didn’t really intend to. We see it all the time with regards to a defender hitting a qb in the head unintentionally. Its not fair guys get penalized for trying to tackle the qb and bumping his helmet with his hand, then receiving a penalty. And I know the best way to tackle a football player is not in the center where its the hardest to bring him down. You should go high or low if you want to make the tackle. Football 101. Don’t know if he hit the knee on purpose or not, but its a valid argument that you’re going low because you can’t go high.

  40. arrowdead says:
    Aug 18, 2013 12:00 PM
    keller bet on himself

    I think its funny when people say a player bet on himself after they sign a one year deal. Yea, maybe in a few cases guys have declined multi year deals that they arent happy with and have instead opted to sign a 1 year deal with the hopes of earning a more financially valuable multi year deal in the following offseason after teams see the way the perform under that one year contract.

    But for the most part players who sign one year deals sign one year deals because that’s the only contracts they’ve been offered.

    I dont know for sure but I doubt Keller was getting 3 year contract offers. He’s not 24 anymore, team’s dont give players who are average to below average at their position, who are in their late 20’s early 30’s multi year contracts.

    So if I had to guess I would “bet” on Keller being in the latter group of guys being on 1 year deals bc that’s all they could get, and not being the minority of players who are on 1 year deals bc they “bet” on themselves and chose that contract over multi year offers that they declined.

  41. Aim for the waist or thigh if you go low, not the knee. If you go high, aim for the sternum. If something happens from there, your conscience is clear.

  42. remember that there’s virtually no contact in practice, so for a rookie, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise with guys making the minimum going overboard to not hit high… but, Keller’s back was turned and Swearinger had plenty of time to size up and hit him between the waist and numbers, where the ball went, where you’d want to go to cause an incompletion or turnover.

  43. if a 200 lb safety hits a 240+ lb TE in the waist/chest, he’s going to get brushed off like its nothing..

    I watched it in my game last night – first play of the game Darian Stewart tries to hit Jermichael Finley high, and gets brushed off like nothing..

    lowest man wins

  44. The people saying there is plenty of room between the knees and head are correct. The people accusing them of not having played football must have been the nancies like Swearinger….that couldn’t tackle and didn’t have a pair so they took the cheap shot.

    I played and I tackled everyone with my shoulder into their torso. Yes, I got knocked back and landed on top of when there was a big weight difference, but I still made the tackle.

    This was the perfect time to hit Keller in the torso. He barely had time to get both feet down on the ground and he had absolutely no forward momentum. He could have easily been tackled properly.

  45. Since when is a helmet to the knee a rationale. Pre-season injuries happen all the time but I sensed this year with new rules, things would be different. Now we are seeing the effects.

    The one and only way to get the NFL’s attention to preserving player health is if Roethlisberger, Brady, Brees, Manning, and Rodgers each take a solid season ending whack to the knees on the final preseason game. Only then adjustments to the pre-season will happen

  46. The rules did not make him do anything. This guy launched himself like a torpedo into Keller’s legs. There wasn’t even an attempt to wrap up any part of Keller’s body, not even his legs. The guy just decided to fly like Superman into his legs. I’ll be glad when the NFL changes the rules and cheap shots like this draw penalties and fines. If you don’t know how to properly tackle you shouldn’t be on an NFL roster, period.

  47. The NFL commish doesn’t even know how a jock strap works. That’s the problem with an idiot like him being in charge. Rookies like Swearinger are too scared to tackle like they’ve always been taught (see what you hit), so they hit low to avoid a big fine. Admittedly, there is space between the knee and head, but he’s probably not the smartest guy in the world and things happen fast. GODdell is to blame.

  48. As a dolphins fan this hurts, but we’ll get by. Dustin Keller doesn’t need fans fighting any battles for him. He’s making five million this year to rehab his knee. I’d trade places with him any day of the week.

  49. you can tell the people in here who never played football before by saying ‘aim for the torso’

    while i agree 100 percent football is a game of highspeed collisions and a reciever is in the air, or running at your or the other 100 ways you can distort your body for a catch things happen.. and when the defender now has to think ok if i hit his head with mine, even if hes the one who lowered his head into mine..ill be getting the fine.

    so now you have tot hink get as low as possible so even if he lowers his head i wont make that contact and i wont get fined.

  50. @c45go

    Was that pee-wee football you played? Maybe it was a video game. Not even Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed “ALWAYS” made the tackle. Neither did you. If you played safety at 200 lbs and tried to tackle a 250 lb tight end coming at you in the chest, he’s going to lower his shoulder and you are going to lose. Simple physics brother. I’m not talking about the hit on Keller, I’m speaking in general, just like you were. You are taught to go low on a guy that’s much bigger than you.

    Its a terrible thing that happened to Keller, I really was hoping he’d have a good season. Best of luck to him in recovery. I hope to see him next year.

  51. Finfan863-
    Dolphins weren’t going anywhere with or without Keller. It’s football Bro, don’t be a puss yourself. Should he hug your boy next time?? :). There are much more malicious hits that happen every game. This was a timing deal and 100% legal, oh, and it’s football.
    Cheap shot: Jets O-Lineman that purposely clipped Cushing’s knee.

    All the cry babies on this site are clearly a younger gen of mamma’s boys forgetting what this sport is. Too funny.
    Keller going down, not. Was not his intent.

  52. swearinger was just overcompensating for a missed tackle last week. he tried wrapping up zach line, instead line just brushed him off and ended up scoring a TD.. just an eager rookie trying hard to make up for a mistake. he put a little extra effort this week in making sure he brought his man down. He was intent on wrapping up kellers legs, caught his plant foot in the process. not cheap, dirty, just an inexperienced rookie gaining on the job training. as he develops we will see more of the swearinger people saw in college laying heavy hits..

  53. Maybe fate will return to Swearinger and hopefully somebody will go gunning for his knees. What a smart punk this rookie is with a record of dirty hits.
    Typical arrogant remarks when all he should say is sorry it happened, and hope Keller has a speedy and complete recovery.

  54. really looked like he deliberately hit helmet to knee on a defenceless player. Things are usually exactly what they look like.

  55. Aiming low is not the same thing as aiming at his knee. There’s absolutely no reason to believe this was dirty. Had the throw not been high or behind Keller, my guess is that Swearington would have de-cleated him, and Keller would’ve lined up on the next play. As it is, it’s a season-ending injury, and that’s simply football.

  56. You hit him in the knee because you didn’t want to hit him in the head? What about the area between the head and knees?

  57. iced107 says: Aug 18, 2013 4:21 PM

    if a 200 lb safety hits a 240+ lb TE in the waist/chest, he’s going to get brushed off like its nothing..
    To me, there is a BIG difference from hitting someone and tackling someone. Nothing drives me crazier than a defensive player hitting someone in an attempt to knock them down and fail. A 200 pound safety can absolutely tackle a 240 pound TE by wrapping him up around the waist or ankles. But I agree with you that if that same safety tries to just hit him, he likely loses that exchange more than he wins it.

  58. Can’t help but wonder if somewhere out there there’s a DC telling his players to “kill the knee”.

  59. That punk #36 that was his first attempted tackle in the NFL so what does he know…NOTHING…..all he does is try to make hits not make a tackle…..he cost the Texans a lot in the Thurs night game….

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