Tom Brady: Low hits on receivers should be taken “out of the game”

USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers lost receiver Chris Godwin for the year with a knee injury sustained when he look a low hit after a catch. Regardless of whether it was clean, it was legal. Quarterback Tom Brady believes it shouldn’t be.

On his weekly Let’s Go! podcast, Brady argued for eliminating from the game hits to the knees of defenseless receivers.

“Chris got hit in the knees yesterday which is a play I think they ought to take out of the game of football from a receiver standpoint,” Brady said, via quotes distributed by SiriusXM. “You know, I’ve kind of talked to the [NFL Players Association] about it for a while, and I’d like to speak to the Competition Committee at some point this offseason. I’ve seen that hit too many times where a defenseless pass-catcher is in the process of catching the ball and then he’s hit by the defender. And a lot of the defenders will say, ‘Well, we can’t hit them in the head anymore.’ Well, the point is you can’t hit anyone in the head anymore. [Editor’s note: That’s an overstatement.] You can’t hit anyone in the knees anymore except for receivers, because you can still hit them in the knees. [Editor’s note: That’s an overstatement, too.] Which doesn’t make any sense to me. You can’t hit a defensive lineman in the knees. [Editor’s note: Overstatement.] You can’t hit a punter in the knees. You can’t hit the quarterback in the knees. [Editor’s note: Overstatement, because once he leaves the pocket, he can be hit in the knees.] You can’t hit a DB in the knees. Except we’re somehow allowing hits on defenseless receivers in the knees. So it needs to be addressed and it needs to be really thought out. It really impacts guys’ careers. And Chris, I know he’ll overcome it. It’s a tough rehab. You tear your ACL, that’s a lifelong injury, you know? And I’m sure almost every pass-catcher in the NFL would prefer a hit to the head over a hit to the knees. I certainly would. I’d take that a million out of a million.”

In recent years, the NFL — after focusing on eliminating hits to the head and neck of defenseless players — gradually has chipped away at the ability to hit players low. Regarded for years as the great equalizer between large players and smaller ones who need to get them down, the NFL has begun to realize that low hits do indeed have major negative impacts on players.

Larry Fitzgerald, who offered during his playing career (which possibly could resume this year, in theory) to pay the fines for defensive players who hit him high instead of low, expressed a practical viewpoint.

“I wouldn’t say it was dirty but its just kind of where the game has gone,” Fitzgerald said. “Guys are tackling lower. They had to bring their aim point down. You know, when I played I actually told guys, ‘Hit me up high. I’ll pay your fine.’ The head trauma and things that come along with it, they affect you later on in life. A blown ACL or a ruptured achilles tendon, those things right there will end your career on the spot. And so it’s a very unfortunate part of the game trying to be more cautious and conscientious of guys heads and lowering the aim point but it has definitely put the lower extremities in a much more compromising position. And it is really unfortunate because you see guys like Chris suffer the effects of it, and you see it across the league all the time, especially with the tight ends who are larger. They just get their legs chopped out from under them. I don’t think leg injuries are going anywhere. This is the way guys are going to continue to tackle.”

If Brady has his way (and he’s hardly alone in his thinking), a strike-zone would be created for defenders who hope to dislodge the ball and/or get the receiver on the ground. With the NFL increasingly concerned about limiting avoidable injuries (possibly because it’s the right thing to do, possibly to justify the inevitable move to 18 games), the rules likely will continue to be tweaked to identify and to eliminate techniques that present an unwarranted risk of serious injury.

Eventually, it could be that most if not all low hits are banned, with the exception of ball carriers who have the ability to evade the contact or properly brace for it. At some point, that could go away, too, making football a below-the-shoulders to above-the-knees game. If it happens, that would place a significant priority of having large, strong players who can bull their way through such efforts to block them or to bring them down.

37 responses to “Tom Brady: Low hits on receivers should be taken “out of the game”

  1. I like Brady but physical play and toughness have already been taken out of the game too much. Not to mention that would be adding even more penalties than we are seeing this year… which is ridiculous.

  2. Can’t anybody just tackle anymore? All of this “hit em high” “hit em low” stuff sounds like wannabe highlight reel talk. Just tackle the guy.

  3. So no high hits, no low hits? Geez, just pay only offense with no defense. That’ll make you happy TB?

  4. With how physical and fast players have become, I’m actually surprised that there aren’t more season-ending injuries every week.

  5. Imagine listening to Larry fitz. As well respected as he is, saying something like he’d rather get hit in the head and deal with those potential issues in the long run than potentially having to retire from a knee injury. Good god… that’s the most stupid thing I’ve heard all day

  6. Alright, which one is it Tom? Because literally two months ago you said, “That was the only way at one point to beat skill, was to be tough.”

    That radical change you wanted where physicality needed to be brought back into football?

    I just can’t with this guy.

  7. I blew out ACL, MCL, and meniscus 21 months ago. I had a cadaver ACL transplanted to reconstruct. I rehabbed like crazy and had great results. I am not the same athletic guy any more. The injury leaves you with discomfort, pops, squeaks, and sometimes pain. Your knee swells up after heavy exercise and you need to ice a lot. I am not complaining — this is how it is.

    People gloss over knee injuries like they are nothing. your life is changed and not for the better.

  8. Wasn’t Tom lecturing the league just a few months ago about how the rule changes are ruining the game because the onus should be on the QB to protect his receivers, not the defense? Now he throws a hospital ball and gets his WR blown up (a star player in a contract year no less) and suddenly we need to “take those hits out of the game.” OK Tom. Just when I was starting to like the guy a little…

  9. It’s so interesting to me to see (hear) Brady whining about a low hit to Godwin and not mentioning the low hit that took the Saints’ QB out for the season.

  10. It seems that tackle by wrapping your arms around a player is a thing of the past. Now the defender tries to knock you out of bounds or off your feet without using one’s hands.

  11. Well the defender hit him in the lower thighs. Completely and totally legal as long as the game has been played. The receiver had the option to go to the ground first. Did he? Nope stuck his foot in the ground and tried to make a play. Brady earlier this year talked crap about others bad play get wrs killed. So did Brady not see the defender? He sure could have thrown it elsewhere or taken the hit himself by not throwing it at all.

  12. You shouldn’t be allowed to leave your feet to make a hit.
    Anyway, Godwin was hit in the thigh and not the knee. The mechanism of these injuries can also be contributed to wearing cleats which make your feet stick in the ground.

    The pads also contribute to the willingness of turning your body into a projectile.

    I’m not a fan of making up another penalty. Change something else.

  13. billsfan716 says:
    December 20, 2021 at 11:57 pm
    Imagine listening to Larry fitz. As well respected as he is, saying something like he’d rather get hit in the head and deal with those potential issues in the long run than potentially having to retire from a knee injury. Good god… that’s the most stupid thing I’ve heard all day
    _________________________________________

    Meanwhile ex players are harming themselves or others and have CTE post mortem.
    I agree. You can fix a knee, not the brain.
    If you want to protect your meal ticket, wear a knee brace.
    Most ACL injuries are noncontact anyway.

  14. “The head trauma and things that come along with it, they affect you later on in life.”

    It sure does, and most people will take a functioning brain over a bad knee any day of the week. Especially ones, you’d think, who have more money than 99% of people on earth.

  15. Just make it flag football and be done with it. Every player knows what there signing up for. I miss the old days of defense.

  16. Other teams receivers go down, nothing said. His receiver goes down and now there should be a rule change. Joke.
    He’s already responsible for the QB to be almost untouchable, Brady rule, another joke. Nobody gave a crap when Carson Palmer went down, Just shut up and go sell a sandwich.
    Or join a flag football team.

  17. I’ve been watching pro football for almost 60 years and over that time I’ve seen the players get bigger, much stronger, and incredibly faster. I’ve also seen the serious injury skyrocket, probably in large part due to those increases in physical development. You can’t stop players from training year round, but taking away the physical play takes away one of the things that makes the game so popular.
    Maybe the NFL should consider something radical like getting rid of helmets and pads and adopting Rugby tackling rules. At least the game would still be physical but you wouldnt have guys using their heads as a weapon in tackling.

  18. If you can’t hit a guy low how can you tackle someone like Gronk or a 6 foot 2 inch wide receiver who lifts weights 365 days a year and runs a 4.3 forty. The evolution of the game and the football player has brought this on.

  19. Just put flags on everyone already and outlaw hitting, except for linemen on both sides because they don’t matter. Oh and don’t forget the skirts for the QBs. Now get off my lawn!

  20. The problem with creating a “strike-zone” for tackling should be obvious. In baseball, the batter can’t duck down and change the dimensions of his strike zone while the pitcher is in the act of throwing the ball.

    In the NFL, that strike zone is a constant moving target. Eliminating low hits will force players to tackle higher which will result in more incidental head-to-head collisions. If the NFL is going to go that route, they would also need to institute some kind of replay rule similar to the targeting rule that exists in college. Good luck with the league maintaining consistency on that. As far as officiating goes, the only thing the NFL refs consistently do is make bad calls.

  21. Godwin was having a lot of success in the first game on those middle crossing routes. Well, until childish Brady threw a pick six at the end of the first game.

    Fast forward to game 2. Dennis Allen drops is LB’s and safeties in the middle of the field, and says go ahead and try the crossing routes. They did. Yes, there was a safety right there to meet up with Godwin.

    Reminder, it’s the Bucs that sent their receivers in the middle of the field and put then at risk.

    Maybe Brady should talk about the dirty tackle that put Jameis out for the season.

  22. Here’s a thought, Tom;

    Throw a pass that doesn’t jeopardize your receivers career.

  23. HEY here’s a novel idea, set a limit on the size of the cleats and go back to all real turf/grass, it gives before the knees/ankles do but I guess since the NFL could have done that decades ago they aren’t really as concerned about the players safety as they claim to be!

    But if they’s do that the players would cry “I can’t get any traction”, but it just boils down to there’s no winning with these guys, they’re always going to find something to cry about!

    I don’t have a problem with the way it is because for >20yrs all we’ve heard is “I could get hurt or a career ending injury and that’s why we make the big money”!

  24. So should the illegal hits that y’all took on Winston that knocked him out for the season. You don’t see us crying about it, y’all would’ve gotten smashed either way!

  25. wasn’t he just a few weeks ago bragging about how awesome he is at keeping his wide receivers from getting blown up in defenseless positions??

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