We'll begin to move on from the Kevin Williams-Joe Looney play after this afternoon -- the Vikings are now about as close to their next game against the Tennessee Titans as they are to last Sunday night's game in San Francisco -- but I thought it would be worthwhile to add one more item to the discussion, from Vikings players Chad Greenway and Jared Allen on the double standard they believe exists on hits like these.
Gripes from defensive players on the league's move to protect quarterbacks are nothing new, but I thought what both players had to say today went a step further.
Williams injured his knee after Looney blocked him low, and both Greenway and Allen said they had no doubt Looney would have been fined had he been a defensive player hitting an offensive player. Allen, in particular, has some experience in that area. He was fined $21,500 last year for a hit on then-Bears offensive lineman Lance Louis, after Allen launched into Louis on an interception return and injured his knee. Allen said at the time he wasn't trying to deliver a dirty hit, and said on Tuesday he paid his fine without complaint. Both he and Greenway asked for the standard to be the same for offensive players.
"I think the reality is, if the role was reversed and it was a defensive guy going into a quarterback or a receiver or a high-profile player, you tell me what's going to happen," Greenway said. "We've seen the fines, you've seen what's gone on in this league. I think you have to be consistent. If you're going to go down that route, you better be consistent with every player, offense, defense, no matter what number's on the back of your jersey."
The league is cracking down on peel-back blocks for 2013, but as ESPN.com's Mike Sando pointed out yesterday, Looney's hit wasn't illegal by the letter of the law. Still, it seemed like the kind of hit -- especially in a preseason game -- that at least violated the spirit of the law. And this isn't the first time Allen has called for more attention to what defensive players have to put up with.
He spoke out last October, after Jets guard Matt Slauson ended Brian Cushing's season on a peel-back block, saying "my knee is as valuable as Tom Brady's," and detailed some of the things defensive players have to put up with under the rules.
"It's bad enough we have to deal with, where an offensive lineman can engage us and the adjacent offensive lineman can chop our legs," Allen said. "It's bad enough that we have to deal with a motioning tight end coming in on a pass-rush situation, we're focused on the tackle and they can take our ears out. I'm just saying, be consistent. How is (Williams) not a defenseless player? You go back and look at that play, and tell me he's not a defenseless player. He has no idea that guy is there, and that dude could have taken him up high. He could have hit him right in the chest, and he chose to duck down and hit him in his knee. We don't have anything [for that]? I'm just a little upset about it."
The league's move to eliminate peel-back blocks, and its prohibition of running backs using the crown of their helmet to hit defenders, would seem to be moves designed with defensive players' safety in mind. But there is a gray area within all these rules, and the Williams play won't be the last one to get players irked this year. It is interesting, though, to see more of a spotlight put on where defensive players are being exposed to dangerous hits, given the league's work in recent years to protect skill players, especially. Time will tell if the hit Williams took will help trigger another round of safety measures.