Mike Shanahan wants rule to protect players from helmet-to-helmet hits on onside kickoffs

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The Redskins will play Week Eight without safety Brandon Meriweather after he was suspended by the league for repeated violations of the league’s rules regarding hitting defenseless receivers in the head and neck.

Meriweather’s coach Mike Shanahan may not have one of the team’s top options to replace Meriweather against the Broncos this weekend because of a concussion and Shanahan thinks that the play that led to Reed Doughty’s injury should be officiated the same way as hits on those trying to catch passes. Doughty was hurt while trying to field an onside kick and got drilled by Sherrick McManus on a hit that Shanahan thought was helmet-to-helmet, leading him to suggest a change in the rules to protect a player in Doughty’s position.

“I’m going to bring that up at the next meeting because that was one of the most vicious hits I’ve ever seen,” Shanahan said, via the Washington Post. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy get hit quite like that — at that speed at 10 yards and Reed just being completely helpless. I think that will be changed for the safety of the players, but that hasn’t been brought up yet. We all want players’ safety first, but there’s a lot that goes into it as we just talked about.”

There aren’t a ton of onside kicks, but most of them look pretty similar to the one from the Redskins-Bears game with players on the receiving team fully exposed to unblocked opponents trying to do anything they can to jar the ball loose. Their situation isn’t much different from the receivers who already receive protection from the rules, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Shanahan’s suggestion gain some traction during the league’s next round of meetings about the rulebook.