Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner had a visceral reaction regarding the idea of college football style “targeting” rules being implemented in the NFL.
“It’s terrible,” Wagner said on Wednesday. “You can just see it now, you watch the college games and they kicking players out for clean hits because they can’t tell what is a clean hit from certain angles. I would rather that rule stay in the colleges then come up here and start messing up our game.
NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said earlier on Wednesday that the NFL would consider adopting similar rules following a weekend that saw a brutal contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, and a head shot delivered by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White. Any such rule changes would need to be approved by the league’s competition committee over the season.
Regardless, Wagner isn’t fond of the rules seen in college football, which require ejections of players should an illegal hit be deemed to have occurred. While not an exact comparison, head shots against defenseless players, blows with the crown of the helmet and launching into an opponent are some of the plays that result in targeting penalties and automatic ejections. If a player is ejected in the second half of a game, they are also forced to sit out the first half of the team’s next game.
“I just think there is a better way than bringing that rule into (the league),” Wagner said. “I would just hate to see rule come into the pros because it makes me not want to watch the college game because I know at any second, a guy could be kicked out for a hit and I don’t know how it is, but they possibly be suspended for half of the game or something like that. Nobody wants to see that.”
In his six seasons with the Seahawks, Wagner hasn’t been penalized for a single play that would have come close to being a targeting penalty under college rules. He’s committed just eight penalties in six years with two roughing the passer penalties being the closest thing he’s committed over that span. Only one of those penalties was even close to an opponent’s head. That came on a late hit of Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor last season when he leaped into Taylor and rode him to the ground after a pass.
“I mean you can be conscious all you want of how you hit a player and what shoulder you are going to hit with the player or anything like that,” Wagner said. “But as soon as the offensive player lowers his shoulder or lowers his head or puts his head into it, I can come with my shoulder and he can lower his head and his head hit my shoulder, but they still say it’s my fault. It’s hard to be conscious of that. You can (be) conscious of it but I don’t think it’s all on the defense even though I feel like we are trying to do a better job of making sure we’re not using our head.”