What was Johnson supposed to do?

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
5:15
PM ET
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The hit by linebacker Derrick Johnson on Kansas City Chiefs teammate Jamaal Charles in the Pro Bowl seems to have angered a few fans. No argument here that Johnson lowered his shoulder and hit Charles hard in the head-and-shoulder area in knocking him to the ground.

Charles
Johnson
No penalty was called. It was a nice tackle by Johnson, and in any other game he would have been applauded for a job well done.

But this was the Pro Bowl and Charles is a teammate. So should Johnson have laid off?

Sorry, that one doesn’t work.

This year’s Pro Bowl was one of the most competitive in recent years, perhaps because the NFL mixed up the rosters rather than playing by conference. Whatever the reason, it was a better and more entertaining game, so let’s not get on a player who was doing things the right way.

This kind of play was inevitable when the league went to the new Pro Bowl format. It wasn’t the only teammate-on-teammate hit. Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward upended teammate Josh Gordon as well.

It’s also true that Charles was coming off a concussion and Johnson might have hit him in the head. But if the injury hadn’t resolved itself and Charles was still concussed, he shouldn’t have been playing.

Even Charles didn’t seem upset by Johnson's hit, telling The Associated Press after the game, "I can't get mad at him. It's just about football, and you've just got to be ready."

Johnson was in the proper spirit of the hit on Charles as well. He tweeted, “Have to give my fellow teammate some friendly fire. LOL! I can't lie. It felt pretty good!"

It was football. It should have felt good.

Adam Teicher

ESPN Kansas City Chiefs reporter

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