In last Saturday's preseason matchup between Denver and Buffalo, there were a lot of hard hits and three concussions. In other words, plenty of fodder for Roger Goodell and his team of attorneys to wring their hands over.
The most disturbing incident was Denver safety Rahim Moore's hit on Buffalo wideout Donald Jones. I use the word disturbing because I see the NFL rules committee heading down a path not knowing where it ends.
Watch the video clip, listen to the commentary, and let the madness begin.
Look at this poor rookie Rahim Moore. He:
1. Didn't launch himself
2. Didn't lead with his head
3. Doesn't make helmet-to-helmet contact
4. Did exactly what the defense calls for
5. Did exactly what the coaches want him to do
6. Is trying to make the team
7. Is trying to dispel the stigma that he can't hit which probably made him a second-rounder instead of a first-rounder.
8. Oh, and let's not forget that he's trying to make a living and support his family and live out his childhood dream.
He's penalized, pulled out of the game, chastised by the television commentary, attacked by the opposing team and now fined $20,000 by the NFL. Why? Because he did exactly what he was supposed to do. I feel so bad for this kid, I want to put my arm around him and tell him, "You done good, kid! It's not you, it's them!"
What bothers me even more is that everyone seems to be buying into this noise. The comments from the television booth (most of them by ex-Bronco Alfred Williams – a defensive player who should know better) are that it was a mistake ... he can't do that ... it was an error in judgment ... he needs to lower his aiming point.
To make things worse, several of the Buffalo players, including fellow receiver Stevie Johnson, reacted as if Moore intentionally injured Jones and set out to act as judge, jury and executioner on the spot. Johnson shoved Moore after the play and had to be restrained by several Bronco players. It's obvious that now even the players feel entitled to this penalty.
The NFL should fine Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for lofting up a "hospital ball" to his own teammate!
The aforementioned Alfred Williams said that Moore should've either gone for the ball or lowered his aiming point. Moore's postgame comments say it all: "It was just my reaction, man. I was being a football player. I couldn't really get to the ball to pick it off, which is what I really wanted to do. But my intention was just to hit him. Our coaches want us to be physical, so I'm going to do what I do."
Lower your aiming point?
Here's what "lowering your aiming point" will get you, by the way: With seven minutes left in the very same game, Bronco safety David Bruton races out of his deep zone to tackle Buffalo receiver Kamar Aiken. He does just as Alfred Williams suggested and just as the rhetoric coming out of the league office recommends. Bruton lowers his aiming point by dropping his head and shoulders down to Aiken's mid-thigh level. Aiken, puts his head down to absorb the blow ... AND KNOCKS OUT BRUTON!
Bruton gets hauled off the field on the meat wagon, gets a free ride in an ambulance to the hospital after the game, the whole nine. Penalty on Aiken? Of course not.
What are these defenders supposed to do? The NFL seems to have plenty of advice about what not to do.
Go back and watch the clip again, but please consider this before you do so: The speed of the game and the split-second reactions that happen down on the field are not well represented on television. Especially not by slow motion replays. I used to have to go watch film just to see what I did. It's a game of instinctive reactions.
Consider this too: This kid's career is on the line. That means hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions. Some may argue that he should've gone for the ball, but if Moore goes for the ball and misses it, it could mean a touchdown. If he doesn't deliver the kind of tackle that he did, he's branded "soft" and the coaches will replace him with someone who will hit.
As much as I hate to be the doomsayer about the game that I love, I think you're going to see a lot more inconsistent calls just like this one and it will ultimately damage the validity of the game. There's no rhyme or reason to the penalties and they seem to be based more on the result of the play rather than the action taking place.
My Dad always says, "Things gotta get worse before they get better so they might as well hurry up and get worse."
Away we go.