Well this just got nasty.
It’s not very often that NFL players or alumni speak positively about illegal hits in football, even on their opponents. Aside from it coming off as barbaric or in poor taste, it also violates the honor code that most players operate under of playing whistle to whistle within the general framework of the rules.
And then there is former Cowboys All-Pro receiver Drew Pearson, who took to the airwaves this week to advocate cheap shots on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, if it aided his team in victory.
Here is a partial transcript of his radio interview on KESN-FM 103.3, via DallasNews.com:
“We gave RGIII a lot of confidence playing against the Cowboys in our first game here in Cowboys Stadium so we need to take it to him. We need to let him know that it’s not going to be that easy or we’re not going to lay down for them and we’re not intimidated by him.
“The way you do that is you go out on that field and you knock him around. Even if it costs you a 15-yard penalty, and I’m only saying this if it’s not a critical situation or anything. Sometimes you have to deliver that kind of blow and that kind of message to let him know it’s going to be like this all day and not a walk in the park.
“We need to establish this with RGIII and the Redskins as well.”
Well thank goodness he clarified that it should only be ‘non-critical situations.’
The absurdity of Pearson’s argument covers the spectrum from illogical to downright irresponsible. Here is a brief rebuttal:
1. It is not unusual to have alumni hype a rivalry. At least twice a year, former Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley goes on sports radio to discuss how much he hates the Cowboys and their fans. Whether it’s a story about sacking Danny White, or a critique of Cowboys’ fans’ hygiene, appearance or intelligence, it’s generally amusing and light-hearted. He does not encourage illegal hits on Tony Romo–he just points out all the things he dislikes about the Dallas quarterback.
Manley played in Washington during the heyday of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry, at a time when the rules on defensive players were far less strict. Which brings me to the next point…
2. Football is a physical sport, and the NFL is full of professional athletes that take risks every time they play. With that in mind, the NFL has made a concerted effort to curb the hits that threaten players’ careers. In recent years, regulations have been set on what a defender may use to hit a player, where, when and how hard. The intent: to protect players from high-risk hits when safer alternatives are available. Instead of hitting offensive players in the head, aim for the chest and lead with the shoulder. Instead of using horse-collar tackles from behind, aim for the waist or the legs, and so on.
These are not arbitrary regulations, and it’s not an acceptable way to “send a message.” The point of these rules is to reduce the number of career-threatening injuries that a player is exposed to over the course of game. Very few defensive players would intentionally deliver a hit that could end another man’s livelihood, so why advocate that approach? This game will likely to come down to one or two defining plays, and a 15-yard penalty could be devastating if garnered at the wrong time. Furthermore, Pearson should watch the Baltimore tape to see what happened the last time Kirk Cousins came in off the bench.
3. Pearson’s argument assumes that the Cowboys’ pass rush lacks motivation against their biggest rival, in a game that decides the fate of the season. DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer have 21.5 of the team’s 34 sacks this season. On Thanksgiving, Spencer tallied a sack, and Ware was neutralized by Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams.It wasn’t for lack of effort that the pass rush failed to find Griffin III–the Redskins were just really good on offense.
In 13 career games against the Redskins, Ware has 11 sacks and 40 tackles. He doesn’t need a former wide receiver to tell him how to do his job.
There is much more that could be said in response to the Pearson Plan, but it is unlikely that football logic or professional honor will resonate in this conversation. This explosive rivalry needs no added fuel ahead of Sunday Night, but cheap shots are just another thing to keep an eye on.