Redskins rookie runner Rob Kelley’s 45-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday was notable for several reasons. It was easily the longest gain of his career. It was, to that point, the longest Washington run of the season. It was also the longest run by a Redskins rookie since December of Robert Griffin III’s rookie campaign. And it prompted immediate questions about whether Kelley might be Washington’s best running back, a development some people suggested might have motivated Matt Jones during the best performance of his career.
Another weird thing about that run: It could have been longer. Kelley looked like he might be off to the races, until he was caught from behind by Eagles safety Rodney McLeod, whose primary contact sure seemed to be with Kelley’s hair.
None of Kelley’s hair came out, but a penalty flag did, and it was easy to assume the Redskins were getting another 15 yards thanks to a horse-collar tackle. Instead, this was deemed a legal hair-collar tackle.
Is this just the perils of being a long-haired person? Or should Kelley take affirmative steps to join the short-haired ranks? Both local sports radio stations discussed the issue Monday morning.
“Can those guys cut the dreads already?” asked John-Paul Flaim on 106.7 The Fan.
“I’ve been saying this for the last two years,” agreed John Auville.
“It’s stupid, right?” asked Eric Bickel.
“It’s a competitive disadvantage to wear dreads in the NFL,” Auville said. “It just is. … Guys love their hair. Look, I’m a bald guy so it’s easy for me to say cut your stupid hair, ok? I get it, I understand it’s a cultural thing, but it’s a competitive disadvantage if you have long hair in the NFL, because you are allowed to grab it and yank a player down by it. It’s legal.”
“It’s a double-edged sword for these guys because they’re looking for a little identity, they’re looking for a little brand awareness,” Bickel said. “It does kind of make them instantly recognizable.”
The arguments were similar on ESPN 980.
“Can’t Rob Kelley and those that have hair flowing through the back of their helmet — allowing somebody to make a tackle that maybe cost the Redskins a chance at a touchdown on that play — can’t they figure out a way to get it inside the helmet so that it doesn’t become an easy opportunity for a defender to tackle a player in the open field?” asked Kevin Sheehan.
Chris Cooley suggested that no, they cannot.
“Okay,” Sheehan said. “Then the only other answer would be to not have the dreads. All it takes is once in a close game where you should score and instead you get brought down short of a first hand or sort of the goal line.”
“All right grandpa,” Cooley quipped.
“That might be grandpa,” Sheehan allowed. “[But] is it that crazy to suggest that you know what, let’s not give the other team an advantage that they don’t have to have? … It’s sort of stupid when you think about it. They’re getting paid a lot of money to produce at the highest level that they can produce, and they’re giving the opponent an opportunity to stop them short of what the maximum could be on a given play. That’s all. I don’t know how you argue that.”
This is the second-straight October that the Eagles have grabbed a Redskins running back by his hair. When it happened to Jones last fall, he said the incident “makes you think” about a trim, but that “I don’t think I’m going to cut it.”
“I think I’ll just put it in another style or something,” Jones said then. “Just braid it together. It’s still going to be out, but it’ll be kind of harder [to grab]. Because these, you can grab these easy. But it’s going to be in a bigger braid-type style, so that’s probably what I’ll do. … I’ll probably just put it in a different style. That’s about it.”
At least one teammate with long hair advocated such an approach.
“When the hairstyle becomes a part of the uniform, man, you’ve got to start tucking it, braiding it, do something,” Ricky Jean Francois advised.