- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Clark has been critical of the NFL in the past.
And the outspoken Steelers safety didn’t hesitate to voice his objections to the league’s plan to monitor low hits on defenseless players and look into banning them in the offseason.
“I’m so disgusted with the NFL right now about those situations. But if an offensive player makes enough stink about something they’ll change it,” Clark said Tuesday. “If they decide to change this rule they might as well put flags [on players] because then you give a guy like myself who’s 200 pounds a two-foot area to stop a guy who’s 240, 250 running at full speed, and that’s going to be kind of hard to do.”
The NFL already prohibits hits about the shoulders on defenseless players. Several players have sustained serious injuries this preseason from hits below the knees, including Dustin Keller. The Dolphins tight end was lost for the season after a hit by Texans safety D.J. Swearinger left him with torn knee ligaments and a dislocated knee cap.
Clark said tackling low is the one way that they know they can get a player on the ground without getting fined. Taking those kind of hits out of the game, Clark said, would put defensive backs at a disadvantage and may even compromise their safety.
Ray Anderson, the NFL’s chief of operations, told the Associated Press that the league’s competition committee could recommend banning low hits if they are deemed to be a problem. Such a recommendation would be voted on by the owners next March.
Clark, the Steelers union player representative, said he is all for player safety. But, he added, too many restrictions will take away the essence of the sport.
“If every time someone gets hurt we decide we’re going to take that play out of football, it’s going to be a different game and they need to change the name of it and change the name of the league,” Clark said. “I do believe they’re trying to do the best that they can to keep players healthy but you can’t protect anything. Obviously you want to protect the head and you’ve done that. Now you have to let us play.”
5hEric D. Williams