Two of the most outspoken players on Washington’s defense defended safety Brandon Meriweather on the first of his two helmet-to-helmet hits against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, but understood the error of the second.
Nose tackle Barry Cofield said that he believes that Meriweather’s reputation as a headhunter makes things harder on the safety. But cornerback DeAngelo Hall said the rules of the game put Meriweather and other defensive backs in difficult positions.
Asked on Sunday night of his opinion of the hits — which are expected to earn Meriweather a suspension — Cofield said, “One of them was questionable to me. I felt the receiver got two steps down. To me, he’s not a defenseless guy anymore. He’s running with the ball. The guy’s like 6-8, 220.”
Cofield spoke of the sideline hit on wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who made the catch and had taken one step, and possibly got ready to take a second before Merriweather came in from the left. His shoulder and helmet struck the 6-foot-3, 216-pound receiver’s helmet.
Hall and Cofield both thought that Jeffery no longer was a defenseless receiver by the time Meriweather delivered the hit.
“I don’t think the first one was actually a head-to-head,” Hall said. “I don’t know what more he can do. I didn’t see the second one, but I know [defensive back] Raheem [Morris] kind of came over on the sideline and said, ‘Yeah, that’s probably one.’ The first one, it felt good, it looked good. I thought it was a good play by him. But it’s getting tough. This is an offensive league.”
Meriweather has already drawn three fines for helmet-to-helmet hits during his career – one of $50,000 in 2010, one of $20,000 in 2011, and then this season, one of $42,000. Cofield said he believes reputation eliminates any benefit of a doubt when it comes to Meriweather drawing penalties.
“Absolutely. I just think it does. I think it does. All the stuff you see happening with [Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong] Suh, and I heard there were some comments made about teaching [Suh] a lesson just as far as his overall behavior. I just think guys like that, you do get a reputation. But that’s in life. Your reputation follows you and it takes a while to shake it.”
Meriweather said Sunday that he has tried to change his playing style, and Cofield believes that he has no choice but to do so.
“I’m sure Brandon’s going to want to hit him low because he doesn’t want his bank account to keep taking hits,” Cofield said. “But at the same time, it’s tough. It’s tough. I just want to see it called both ways, and if that’s the case, then what can you argue?”
Hall didn’t think believe that officials are going after Meriweather, though. He lamented the fact that rule changes have made it harder for defensive backs to make stops because they have to be more particular about where they strike a ball carrier.
“I don’t know if he’s being targeted. That’s kind of the rules we have now in football today,” said Hall, a 10-year veteran. “They said something about hitting a little lower and then a guy hits a little lower and they say, ‘You know, that’s an ankle. That’s a knee.’ I don’t know what more you want for us to do. They said that a couple years ago. Do you want your livelihood destroyed by hitting up high or your career by hitting down low? I thought they said, ‘Career we can live with, but we can’t have guys dying early from head injuries.’ So, they changed the strike zone and for them to still be complaining, ‘Hey, you’re getting too many guys injured because you’re hitting down low,’ you can’t have it all. It’s almost two-hand touch. It’s going to be tough in the coming years. I’m glad I’m on the way out.”
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