The NFL has slapped Redskins strong safety Brandon Meriweather with a two-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Baltimore Ravens receiver Torrey Smith on Saturday.
The news release issued by the league states that Meriweather will be suspended without pay for Washington’s season opener Sept. 7 at Houston and Sept. 14 at FedEx Field versus Jacksonville. Meriweather will be barred from team property during that time as well.
The hit was Meriweather’s sixth career violation of rules regarding unnecessary roughness related to hits on defenseless players and impermissible use of the head. Meriweather is entering his eighth NFL season.
NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent, himself a former safety in the NFL, imposed the suspension, the news release said.
“On the play in question, Meriweather delivered a forceful blow to the head and neck area of a defenseless receiver with no attempt to wrap up or make a conventional tackle of this player,” Vincent said in the release.
League rules permit Meriweather to appeal the suspension within three business days. When reached by phone Monday evening, Meriweather declined to say if he would appeal the suspension. He said that he wasn’t allowed to speak about the incident. The appeal would be heard by either Derrick Brooks or Ted Cottrell, who are both appointed and compensated by the NFL and NFL Players Association to decide appeals.
Last season, Meriweather initially received a two-game suspension, but it was reduced to one game following the appeals hearing.
On Saturday, Meriweather expressed frustration over the penalty when he spoke to reporters following Saturday’s game. He said that he had tried to lower his strike zone, and that he didn’t believe a penalty should have been called.”
“No, I don’t. But at the same time, I’m not the one who wrote the book on penalties,” he said. “I tried to aim at his numbers. I kind of seen the pass go, and I went in and aimed low, and I hit him with my shoulder. I did everything my coaches taught me to do, and I got the flag.”
Monday afternoon, three hours before the suspension was handed down, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden had the same stance as Meriweather on the safety’s efforts to avoid contact with Smith’s head.
“He did the best he could, it looked like. [Joe] Flacco threw a late one across the middle and [Meriweather] saw the ball, and he tried to lower his target,” Gruden said. “Unfortunately, as he was lowering his target, the receiver felt him and lowered his head also at the same time. It was a bang-bang play. It’s going to be up to the commissioner and the people looking at that whether or not he’s going to get fined or what have you. It’s out of my hands. But I thought he tried – in his best interest he tried his best to lower his target and avoid the helmet-to-helmet contact, but sometimes when you’re lowering and your receiver lowers at exactly the same time, it’s very difficult. But he’s trying to lower it”
Gruden at the time declined to speculate on whether Meriweather would receive a suspension.
Meriweather previously has received punishments in the form of hefty fines for illegal hits on five different occasions. Last season, he received a one-game suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Bears receiver Brandon Marshall. That punishment came four weeks after Meriweather received a fine of $42,000 for an illegal hit on Packers running back Eddie Lacy.
Minutes after the league announced the suspension, many of Meriweather’s teammates took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the decision.
@nfl SMH Most of the guys making the rules never played the game before but they want to tell us what’s best for the game…. Yeah right— DeAngelo Hall (@DeAngeloHall23) August 25, 2014
Long snapper Nick Sundberg noted that Meriweather’s suspension was of the same length as that of Ravens running back Ray Rice for beating his wife.
Sketchyyyyyy… Seems a bit excessive, I mean it’s not like he knocked out his wife in a casino elevator… On video…— Nick Sundberg (@NickSundberg) August 25, 2014
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