Tony Gonzalez: Hit me in the head, not my knees

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Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is among the group of NFL players taking issue with the play that ended Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller’s season last week.

Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger dove into Keller’s knee while trying to make a tackle in their game against the Dolphins on Saturday night. The play tore Keller’s ACL, MCL and PCL and dislocated his knee in the process. It was a brutal injury that landed Keller on injured reserve.

Gonzalez hates the play. It’s the last thing he wants to see a defender to do when trying to tackle him. As far as he’s concerned, he’d rather take a blow to the head than have a player diving at his knees.

“It should be a fineable offense. That’s just not part of football — hitting a defenseless player in his knee, that’s something we all dread as players. That’s my nightmare,” Gonzalez said, via Jim Corbett of the USA Today. “Hit me in my head (instead).”

Gonzalez called the hit by Swearinger “ridiculous.” Swearinger has claimed that he tried to tackle Keller low because of the league’s mandate against blows to the head. He said the rule changes have forced defenders to lower their angle of attack.

Gonzalez doesn’t buy it. He said there’s “a whole target area” between the knees and neck where a defender can legally hit a player.

“I’d rather have a guy hit me head than knife at my knee,” Gonzalez said. “You’re talking about a career-ending injury. It’s going to be so hard for Dustin to come back off of that. It should be a fineable offense, just like going for the head is.”

112 responses to “Tony Gonzalez: Hit me in the head, not my knees

  1. Simple solution, 1 belt and 2 flags that’s what the league will become. You have the best head protection of any sport on earth, yet you encourage the helmet to be untouchable. How can you hit a ball carrier low and still keep your head up? baffling. Concussions are part of the job, just like getting washed over while crab fishing or drowning while underwater welding, its part of the job. QUIT RUINING THE SPORT I LOVE!!!!

  2. Being 3 weeks removed from ACL surgery, I think I can safely say holy crap I feel bad for Dustin Keller, I knew it was bad but that’s literally everything that could go wrong at once, poor guy.

  3. Sure. . . with offensive players being so “defenseless” and all, they’d prefer that ANY hit or tackle be a fineable offense. Makes life so much easier for them– of course they want all the money, and none of the risk. Wouldn’t it be great if life could work that way for everyone?

  4. Man up already. You could be sitting behind a desk for 30 years of your life. Don’t like getting hit playing a “contact” sport? There’s a cubicle waiting for you at your local Hertz.

  5. Great get the NFL to start fining for that as well! Might as well turn this into a flag football league

  6. I don’t see how that is not a cheap shot. Lead with the helmet, wen’t low, so many things wrong.

    I hope they fine him and suspend him for the duration of the injury to Keller. If that ends up ending the career of Keller, it should also end the career of Swearinger.

    Cheap, uncalled for, no place in the game.

  7. James Harrison was saying this 3 years ago when you all were calling him a dirty player. He said he’d prefer someone knock him out of the game with a blow to the head rather than shred his knee and potentially end his career. Well he out that into practice in the 2011 playoffs when he blew up Eric Decker’s knee because he “lowered his strike zone.”

    Reap what you sow, Goodell.

  8. “I’d rather have a guy hit me head than knife at my knee,” Gonzalez said.

    That is a ridiculous statement for Gonzalez to make. He must have been hit in the head too many times.

  9. I’ll second Gonzalez’s motion.

    As someone who suffered a Joe Theisman like injury myself, I cringe at Keller’s injury

    The psychological aspect of having an injury like that is almost as debilitating as the injury itself. It took a long time before I trusted that knee again.

  10. The problem with Gonzalez’s argument is that while yes, there is a large area between the head and the knees, the problem is that if a DB like Swearinger ( 5’11”, 210) is obliged to tackle a TE (Keller is listed at 6’2″, 250) in the torso, the chances of the TE dragging him several yards further down the field is much increased, unless the angle is absolutely perfect.

    I’m afraid the way the NFL is going WILL be to eventually fine for low hits, as it does for high hits, and the league’s marketing gurus will see this as a good thing because scores will go way up, and hey, don’t fans like that.

    If Goodell hangs around long enough we really may see the NFL become a flag football league.

  11. The dis-use of legs can be augmented with canes and crutches and surgeries and a person can go on living a happy life.

    Ask a player that suffers brain swelling, chronic migraine headaches and a depression that infects their happiness, leads to divorces and estrangement from their loved ones, and makes suicidal thoughts appealing to them, whether they’d prefer to lose a knee in exchange for their sanity.

  12. I agree Tony. The league fines you for plays that don’t even draw a penalty but Dustin gets his knee detonated and it’s legal. By the way that astro turf don’t help the situation either.

  13. I’m amazed at how much flak a rookie like Swearinger is getting for this hit. I don’t think he purposefully set out to take Keller’s knee out — do people really believe that?

    I can understand where Gonzalez is coming from but don’t throw all the blame at Swearinger, the NFL’s rules and mixed messages about hitting is whats causing the issue.

  14. FINALLY someone with some sense that’s speaking THE REAL TRUTH about that Senseless Cowardly HIT Though (Real…)

  15. Tony is 1000% correct. As an aside I wish the worst for dj swearinger… Dude brings a negative element to the sport with that type of play. Should be a fineable offense.

  16. “Hit me in the head, not in the knees.”

    “It should be a fineable offense, just like going for the head is.”

    Am I the only person who noticed this?

  17. He lies the root to all issues with the nfl. It is inherently dangerous and it can’t be avoided, and everyone whose ever played it at a high level, including myself. Understand the dangers that can come from playing including everlasting chronic pain and injuries. Trying to avoid any and all injuries with penalties and or fines only deludes the product on th the field.

    They run the risk of changing injuries with every new rule, there will always be a knee jerk reactions with regard to changes in rules and new sever injuries. At some point they either must pick and choose which to apply and have everyone understand even still others may happen.

    Hits to the head cause less concussions than the ground does but that’s never discussed. Point is they can never have a perfect game especially such a physical type of game. NEVER.

  18. “He said there’s “a whole target area” between the knees and neck where a defender can legally hit a player.”

    Sure, but the typical TE outweighs the typical DB by 40 lbs. Even if you blast a TE in the torso, there’s a fair chance that he’s going to stay on his feet and embarrass you.

  19. There are two ways to look at this.

    Shot to the knee ends your season or maybe your career.

    Shot to the head you miss a few games but the effects maybe with you forever.

    Decisions decisions….how about just hit them in the “strike zone” knees to numbers.

  20. “He said there’s “a whole target area” between the knees and neck where a defender can legally hit a player.”

    Pretty much. In Swearenger’s idiot mind, “don’t hit players in the head” means take out their knee.

  21. More proof that the NFL lawyers have ruined the league and for frightening Goodell in their fear of liability and future lawsuits into the absurd rules and fines on defensive players.

  22. Oh no not a shot at the lower body!

    OK, there’s a reason you are making millions Tony. Because, there is the risk of serious injury. You might even get a concussion.

    Bottom line is, at this rate with the player’s constantly whining, how long til the QB can’t even be touched?? Or WR?? Heck, let’s just play flag football! It’s football!!! If you don’t like being hit, then get a real job.

    Sick of all the whining by players….had to vent. Tony, if you don’t like it, retire.

  23. Gonzalez, later: “On second thought, don’t hit me at all. Matt Ryan says I’m, like, fifty years old anyway.”

  24. And how does a picture of a 49er(Tarell Brown) hitting Gonzales have anything to do with this?

  25. I met Tony a few years back in San Diego. Met him out at this bar. Sat and talked with him for a while. Drank a bunch of beers together. No security at all. This dude def knows how to bring the women in. Lets just say he let me come back to his room with a couple of female friends. One of the best nights of my life.

  26. I suspect players from other teams will do their own enforcing against Swearinger. It seems unlikely he will ever complete another season. He knew exactly what he was doing and the thing is everybody else knows, too.

  27. That goes against everything that is taught in football since the Pop Warner years. If swearinger hits Keller up high, not in the head, but in the chest, Keller probably bowls him over and Swearinger has to deal with coaches reminding him that he should’ve hit the big guy lower. This is football, there is no way to eliminate injury while keeping the playing field level. Make the players sign a waiver when they enter the league releasing the NFL from any responsibility of injury caused during a legal hit.

  28. I was taught how to tackle in High School. You put your facemask in his chest and wrap your arms around him.

    Everybody is trying to make a hit and they forget how to tackle. You wrap a guy up and hang on for dear life.

  29. No hitting the head, no hitting the knees, no grabbing the collar, no crack back blocks, no hitting with the crown of your helmet, no leading with the crown of your helmet. No spinning the ball, no unique facemasks, must wear thigh pads.

    I give it 10 more years before football will be outlawed.

  30. Sure Tony, because thats exactly what Bostic did (hit with the shoulders in the chest) and still got a 21k fine.

    I guess the next thing you will say is “Hit me in the head and I’ll pay your fine” ????

  31. So Tony…when defenders are getting fined for hits to the head even on contacts where they’re aiming for the chest or waist I’m sure you did more than just shrugged right? To be labeled as a repeat offender will get a defender fined and suspended. Until the NFL starts enforcing their rules with some kind of common sense you guys will continue getting hit low.

  32. How about QBs stop throwing footballs that put your receivers in prime positions to get demolished by safeties and linebackers?

    It’s really educational to watch games from the 80s, and even much of the 90s. Whereas today, offenses are nothing but drag routes and short posts over the middle; back then, most passing plays were to the sidelines or going away from the big hitters in the center of the field.

    Guys like Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Isaac Bruce played for as long as they did because they never had to catch Drew Brees’ jump balls between the safeties. He’s, literally, going to get someone paralyzed or killed before his career is over.

  33. You’re right, there is a whole area between the head and the knees. But if you’re Jon Bostic, you still get 5% of your salary as a fine for hitting in that area, too. Flag football.

  34. Well those are the rules nowadays don’t blame the dude for the hit.maybe if players quit doing things like suing the nfl, forcing them to change the rules then they would hit higher.

  35. GODdel will now create a “tackle strike zone” that extends above the knee and from the shoulders down. Any contact outside of said zone will result in a personal foul. Coming soon…….

  36. I agree that there is a whole target area between the knees and neck, and that players should try to wrap up and make proper tackles. However, there is still the problem of offensive players lowering their bodies at the last second which causes the defender, who was targeting their body, to hit them in the head and get penalized.

  37. This is unfortunately is the mess the league has created. Why don’t we just make it flag football and call it a day. Afterall, isn’t that what Rodger wants. I miss the football when safeties could separate receivers from the ball. #Ronnie Lott/Steve Atwater/Wes Hopkins/Brian Dawkins

  38. A seasoned vet preferring injury to his brain than knee. ummmm, that is myopia at its best.

  39. Here’s the problem I have with this statement and I would love input from everyone. Junior Seau and Dave Duerson committed suicide in part to CTE. These two had their fair share of collisions.

    Does Tony Gonzalez not know about the concussion lawsuits? Does he not understand how Jim McMahon is suffering from dementia?

    The facts are that these players understand the risk they take when they step on the football every day. However, they would rather have a concussion than a knee injury because they wouldn’t miss as much time.

    These lawsuits are scams and that may come off rude even though I do not want it to be. I played high school football and even I knew how dangerous it was. These players filing lawsuits are looking to cash in and for what causes?

    They all understand the risks that come with playing the game and this statement from Gonzalez ensures that these guys would rather make a lot of money during their career and face the life-threatening issues later in life.

  40. Offensive players don’t get to choose where they get hit, and there are fines for hitting high. Can’t have it both ways. I’m against this sort of strike zone thinking. You can’t throw your body from the outside of yourself at high speed and hit the areas you want.

  41. coming from someone who never tackled someone. you don’t get the penalty for making a split second mistake and get chewed out by coach. it sounds good in theory … neck to knees but try thinking about that when going to make a tackle . you probably won’t make the play.

  42. This is not a fun topic to talk about. I played TE in High School so I can relate to the TE position. It absolutely sucks turning up field and seeing a defender launching himself at your knees. Hyper-extended my knee. Torn meniscus and knee recontruction. The only thing worse than taking a shot to the knee is taking a shot to the head. Our running back fumbled the ball, I dove at it. As soon as I had 2 hands on the ball, Boom!!!! Took a knee right to the head. My neck compressed, my body went numb and I couldn’t move anything but my eyes. That feeling I will never forget. Thank god after about 30 seconds, everything started to come back again. Horrible feeling. If I had to choose which one I’d rather go through again, I’m taking the shot to the knee everytime. Sorry Tony. They both suck, but I’d rather you go after my knee than try to paralyze me.

  43. I guess when he gets to be 60 or 70 he will be looking for a check because he got hit one time to many in the head, that is not smart, you never want to get hit in the head, never, however going for the knees should be at least a one game check fine and a set on the bench for one game. Some say that what happen to the Miami tight end was not a dirty play, I say they never had there knee wipe out with a chance of there career being over. Bill

  44. I can understand from an offensive player’s standpoint about saying don’t go for the knees and there is a whole target area between the knees and neck that a defensive player can hit you………..but Gonzales’ logic is still flawed, because if the offensive player is say 260 pounds and the defender is around 200……….trying to go for the chest or stomach area is not going to do a whole lot. Defenders need a way to be able to bring down an offensive player……….I agree with the post yesterday, these offensive players also weren’t crying last year when Eric Berry went down off a chop block by a receiver.

  45. Gonzalez… Are you gonna pay the rookies fine for hittn u in the head????? kubiak say swearingers’ hit was unfortunate because DJ thought it was an out route and Keller cut in. If he goes out its a normal leg tackle. He was alrdy committed to the tackle. It happens.. N goin to happen a ton this year get Rdy.

  46. I got a better idea — rather than hitting the head or the kneess, how about focusing on the 85 percent of the body mass that sits above the knees and below the neck? They’ve only been teaching it that way for 100 years or so…

  47. Just hit him in the “strike zone” everyone says. What happens to that “strike zone” when an offensive player crouches to absorb a hit. Opps! no more strike zone!

    As a defender you have little choice most of the time where to hit an offensive player. Helmet to helmet hit are going to keep occurring because of this. The fins rack up and more defenders are going to hit low. Welcome to the “New NFL” boys and girls

  48. Oh and all of you saying that was a dirty hit by Sweringer. That exact tackle happens at least 5 times in every game. The problem with this one is that Keller got injured. If he was not and the same tackle happend this is a non story.

  49. I love Tony G. But it’s easy to say “its ridiculous to hit someone in the knee” and “hit me up high” when you’re 6’5 250. No DB is that big so one could argue that going low is better protecting the tackler.

  50. Tony is absolutely wrong. I am a a PT who works with amputees and people with head injuries/neurological disorders. I am also a vet who has had injuries and has many friends with serious injuries to head and limb.

    Limb injuries heal. Even when they don’t you adapt. Everyone struggles with an amputation at first; eventually they transition and realize all that they can still do..many even become more active than they were before.

    The biggest problem they face is letting go of their identity as “someone who lost a leg” and viewing themselves as “someone who has one leg”

    Professional athletes are unique in they have been doing the same thing, every day, since they were kids. It defines who they are. The closest thing is probably being a soldier every day…both find transitioning to life afterwards difficult at times. An athlete cannot imagine something getting in the way of their career, let alone something that can take away their athletic ability on a larger scale, but…

    Head injury is a different beast. Depression, loss of cognitive function, mood swings, memory loss, personality changes, seizures, balance/vestibular disorder, vision problems.

    Head injuries are cumulative, the total effect may not hit you until later. You may retire and think you’re fine, then the effects may start coming on slowly. You may be fine and then go into a full blown seizure. Your personality changes, you have to write notes all over the house to remember how to make meals…don’t leave the stove on…don’t leave the house without your book, your book being something that tells you who you are, where you live, important people to call, how to get around…because you WILL forget. Dealing with all of your loved ones looking at you like you aren’t the person they know, because you’re not, but no one can keep it up forever.

    Serious head injuries can result from a lot of “non-serious” head injuries. They change EVERYTHING. They take away what makes you “you.” So Tony Gonzales may prefer the head to the knee, but that’s only because he won’t be Tony Gonzales anymore…

  51. You know as a Texans fan I defended Swearinger on this. But after listening to some different points of view from other Texans fans and reading what other players think, I think I’ve changed my tune.

    I’ll still defend him as I don’t think there was intent to injur but I do feel that negligence is just as bad as intent. He’s a young player playing in his 2nd preseason game and he made a bad decision on the fly. The previous game he went high on a very similiar play and the guy bounced off and scored a 65yd TD.

    To Fins fans, I apologize that you lost a key weapon to a questionable hit. I know I would be livid if we lost Dre or Owen Daniels to a hit like that.

  52. Read Walter Football’s draft report on Knee Jay
    ” Too often goes for knockout blow rather than wrapping up
    Should improve tackling fundamentals. Overly aggressive…”

    How prophetic! He went for the knock out blow rather than tackle.
    Fine him. Now.

    Or maybe we should teach “go for the knees” in Pop Warner and high school ball if its truly an OK strategy. I’m sure your sons won’t mind the surgery and rehab.

    A bad decision by a talented player deserves a fine everytime.

  53. taintedsaints2009 says:
    Aug 21, 2013 11:20 PM

    Actually, Antoine Winfield is a great tackler.

    I agree. Winfield is a great tackler, so is Nate Clements and Dante Whitner. All three players played at Ohio State, they seem to teach the right way to tackle.

  54. If these offensive players want to be hit in the head instead of the knees, they should offer to pay for the defensive players fines when they go high. They should also sign some sort of waiver of liability that says they can’t sue the NFL for concussion related problems later in life since they are clearly asking for head to head contact

  55. The people saying this is a clean hit due to the size difference of players are way off on this argument. Obviously this guy needs to go low on a TE because he’s smaller. However, if you watch a guy like Antoine Winfield (5’9 however small he is), this play never happens. He knows how to go low on the legs and WRAP UP AND DRIVE YOUR OWN LEGS THROUGH A GUY, and ACTUALLY USE HIS ARMS LIKE A LASSO. If that happens, Keller just falls over. Instead, this guy LAUNCHED, leaving the ground taking all control out of his hands. He was a human missile. Every single person on this earth shreds their knee on this hit.

  56. That was a very dangerous tackle, probably as bad as helmet to helmet. no reason for a direct blow to the knee like that. The target should be the players waist or if want to go low, wrap up the lower legs below the knee.

  57. Here’s a thought on reducing illegal hits:

    Whatever fine amount is assessed against the player committing the penalty gets paid to the person who got hit…

  58. There’s no way a DB can tackle someone like a Mike Alstott by hitting him in the numbers and wrapping him up. Ankles is about all you’ve got or a “buisness decision” ala Deion Sanders.

  59. Look Tony – I know your 6’5, 247 lbs with 17 yrs exp.
    Now if I get out my 3rd grade calculator and divided your height and weight by 2 – that is me.

    I’m a small guy and I played defensive end before and if I was to tackle you on the head I would need a step latter and you would probably carry me into the end zone.

    But if I tackle your legs and feet your not going anywhere. That’s how I tackle, its a sure and the easiest way to bring you down. – Got it –

  60. i understand that Tony just want to make the point. But i’m sure he would rather end up not playing football anymore (with a knee injury) than looking like mohamed ali.
    note: This is no disrespect to mohamed ali. Just making the point.

  61. Promise not to sue the league 5 years after you’ve blown all your money and you can hit each other however you want.

  62. Let me make this easy ,I have a hammer where would you rather me whack you, on your knee, where the only protection you have is a thin piece of foam,or your head where you have a helmet,that has gone through decades of improvement to do one thing ……..protect your noggin . When I played 35 yrs ago we were taught square up and tackle chest to chest sometimes if the running Back was big,to take him out at the ankles ,but to always have your head up so you could see what your doing.Why is that not being taught now.To me if the defender has his head up,and looking where he going, that would end most of the problems. It’s when they lower their head looking at the ground that the problems start

  63. sure thats all good gonzo but why dont you tell that to the suits and GODell at park ave who make the rules

    if i was a Defensive player i wouldnt risk losing pay just bec you dont like getting hit low–i would obv aim for your stomach and chest but if you move your body where your legs are the only option then im going for those.

    i still dont udnerstand why the helmets outter layer isnt coated with some type of foam to absorb the hit..better than hard surface hitting hard surface

  64. Gonzalez is good friends with Keller, so for him to take that stance is no surprise at all.

    Feel for Keller, but it was a legal and solid hit.

  65. Maybe it is intended to hit his knee. I know it is not good on how he went through about it. However, it is just one of the challenges he has to face in his career as an athlete. Many athletes who passed such situation became better stronger than before. That is why, I advice him to face his knee problem and when he is already through to it, he will be better than before.

    Learn more on how to heal acl injury at

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