Report: NFL not likely to ban low blocks by next season


San Francisco 49ers nose tackle saw Ian Williams saw his season come to an abrupt end against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night.

Wiliams suffered a broken ankle on a legal cut block from Seahawks’ guard J.R. Sweezy. Williams was trying to chase a toss play to running back Marshawn Lynch toward the left sideline. Sweezy’s right shoulder landed directly on the just-planted left foot of Williams and he crumpled to the turf. Williams was placed on injured reserve this week.

The block from Sweezy is typical of zone-blocking teams. The linemen on a run play attempt to cut down the backside defenders to create cutback lanes for their running back. It’s the system Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos utilized for years with Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary and Clinton Portis to post several productive seasons and is used by many teams across the league. The blocks aren’t illegal like chop blocks are. A chop block is when a defender is engaged with a blocker and then another player dives at his legs.

However, with an injury like the one Williams sustained Sunday night, it’s natural to ask with the league’s focus on improving player safety if cut blocks will continue to be fair game at the line of scrimmage.

According to Alex Marvez of, don’t expect any changes to the rule to be made by next season. Competition committee chairman Rich McKay of the Atlanta Falcons said the group decided earlier this year against advocating for a change of the rules on blocks such as Sweezy’s on Williams.

Offensive coaches feel that eliminating those blocks would make cultivating a successful running game incredibly difficult. McKay said the competition committee took input from coaches around the league before electing to leave the rules alone for the time being.

“We brought in offensive line coaches, defensive line coaches, defensive linemen and linebacker coaches this year to the competition committee to talk about cut blocking, that very play (involving Williams) and those types of plays,” McKay said. “We really came out recommending no change.”

McKay said it doesn’t mean they won’t revisit the issue in the future, but that for now cut blocks will remain a part of the norm at the line of scrimmage.

28 responses to “Report: NFL not likely to ban low blocks by next season

  1. Insane to me to think that a guy gets fined 100k for a play that’s legal for an OL. Oh, also the player receiving the block was not injured.

  2. The problem is it’s legal for center was engaged with Williams and he moves slightly and gets cut by the guard. It’s part of the game.

    The sad thing is Ian Williams is not a known player this will be forgotten, he will probably never play in NFL again. Losing a year when the average career is only 4 years.

  3. I honestly don’t understand why this wasn’t a penalty. No sarcasm, would someone please explain it to me? Williams was engaged up high when he was taken out down low – is that legal when you’re hit from the back, but not the front? That would make no sense.

  4. The NFL only cares about offense. If a coach came up with a scheme that involved kicking the DL in the groin, the NFL would probably be cool with it so long as it meant big fantasy football stats.

  5. Pretty soon the only place you’ll be able to hit a player without getting a penalty is the groin.

  6. Of course they’re not. It helps offense, so they won’t ban it. The NFL doesn’t care in the slightest about “player safety”; This is all about producing the high-scoring games that Roger Goodell is telling us we want.

  7. Okay Patrick Willis, they finished “doing physics to that” now. Conclusion: Quit whining and play football.

  8. Of course! The NFL doesn’t care about the safety of defensive players. The more offense the better to them.

  9. It’s funny. Suh is such monster for his block that left no one hurt yet this block is just fine & the player hit is on IR…. There are also videos of the cheap blocks players take at Suh. The NFL needs to get their heads out of their behinds

  10. If there was a lawsuit against cut blocks, I’m sure the NFL would make them illegal by the end of the day today.

  11. All new NFL rules should have to go through the Rooneys to ensure it is best for the game.

  12. The offensive line can engage high with a defender, and then another lineman can block low as long as the offensive players are lined up next to each other at the snap. In other words a center and guard can legally high low all day at the line of scrimmage on run plays. The block had to come from the front. Obviously, a slow guard will block from the side, which is where the danger lies.

    The NFL doesn’t need to make the block illegal, they just need to make sure that all low blocks are square to the defender. Any block low to the side of a defender should be a penalty regardless if the helmet is to the front.

    Allowing a block from the side gives slow pulling guards a dangerous advantage for being slow off the ball.

  13. “Pretty soon the only place you’ll be able to hit a player without getting a penalty is the groin.”
    And that will also be illegal as somebody does it to Brady or Brees.

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