Redskins starting safety Brandon Meriweather will definitely appeal the two-game suspension levied by the NFL for an illegal hit against Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith, Coach Jay Gruden and teammate Ryan Clark said Tuesday.
Clark, 34, who is a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive board, said he had spoken to DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director, about Meriweather’s case Monday. “I have already been reaching out to people, doing what I can to make sure that we fight this thing to the fullest of our ability,” Clark said.
Meriweather was suspended for the first two games of the regular season, the Sept. 7 game at Houston and the Sept. 14 against Jacksonville, after a helmet-to-helmet tackle on Smith.
Gruden supported Meriweather, whom the league has penalized six times for violating rules regarding unnecessary roughness related to hits on defenseless players and impermissible use of the head. For Meriweather, the appeals process is the next step.
“Unfortunately for Brandon, he’s got a history of these type of events,” Gruden said. “Whether or not it was significant enough to warrant the suspension, it’s what [the league] decided. Now, we have to go through the appeals process … and do whatever steps we need to do what’s necessary to get that thing reduced or dropped.”
On the hit to Smith’s head, Meriweather played it the right way, Gruden said.
“Brandon’s been working very hard to lower his target,” Gruden said. “It was an unfortunate incident. He tried to lower his target, I thought. I thought it was a legitimate football play. But the NFL didn’t see it that way.”
Clark argued that Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of operations, should have taken Meriweather’s intent into account before levying such a harsh penalty. According to Clark, who was on the field at the time, Meriweather took all the proper precautions to make a clean tackle but ended up making contact with his helmet because the receiver moved.
“If you fine him by the letter of the law, I get it,” Clark said. “But a situation where a guy led with his shoulder, lowered his strike zone, the ball was a badly thrown ball, the offensive play moves his head into his shoulder and then also comes out after the game and says, ‘I don’t think it was a bad hit’?
“Nobody is concussed; nobody has got a head injury from it. I just think it’s a tough call for them to make on Brandon.”
Given his history of dangerous hits, Meriweather has clearly lost the benefit of the doubt in the eyes of NFL officials charged with meting out punishment for rules violations.
Clark noted that NFL players aren’t paid for preseason games on the same scale as regular season games. Given that, he questioned the fairness of suspending a player for two regular-season games, and docking him two regular-season game checks, for a preseason infraction.
“Either we’re going to have to stop playing preseason games and decide as starters we aren’t going to be a part of it, as guys who played a long time in this league,” Clark said, “or they’re going to have to figure out a way to make it worth your while to put that much on the line to go out and play preseason.”
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