Most of you probably saw Eric Weddle lay the wood on Early Doucet early in the 3rd quarter of Saturday night's game. In real-time, the hit looked vicious. Weddle broke towards the Doucet, and rammed his shoulder right into Early's sternum. Doucet dropped instantly, as if he was Yushin Okami eating a right hook from Anderson Silva. It was a glorious play, Weddle broke up a reception that would have resulted in a first down, while also swinging the momentum of the game in San Diego's favor.
Of course, because of the NFL's recent rule changes regarding "defenseless receivers", the Chargers were robbed of this momentum swing and slapped with a 15 yard penalty, thus giving Arizona's drive new life. Although that Cardinal's series did not lead to a score, it did result in bad field position for the Chargers on their next possession.
Normally, I am in favor of these penalties being called. Players who are intentionally trying to injure other players should be punished. Helmet-to-helmet hits -- like the one involving Anquan Boldin in 2008 -- need to be dealt with swiftly and effectively. However, hits like the one made by Eric Weddle on Saturday should not be lumped into the same category as helmet-to-helmet hits. Weddle did everything right on that play, he reacted to where the ball was going and hit the the receiver square in his chest using his shoulder. I do not see another way he could have played that situation. Should he have let Early make the catch? Should he have just swiped at the ball as Early ran by him? Of course not. His only option was to make that hit.
Luckily for the Chargers, this was just a preseason game. However, imagine if this happened in week 16 or 17 in the regular season. A call like the one made Saturday night has the potential to influence pivotal regular season games. Cardinal's fans know this all too well. You may remember back in 2007, during a hotly contested tie game with the Baltimore Ravens, Adrian WIlson laid out Todd Heap late in the 4th quarter. The play drew a 15 yard penalty, which moved Baltimore into position to make a game winning field goal. In the ultra-competitive NFL, one game like this could be the difference between playing in the post season and taking an early vacation.
I get that the NFL wants to improve player safety. It is great that the NFL finally wants to step up and take care of their money makers. But seriously, they have taken it too far. It is almost like the NFL is trying to get rid of concussions and injuries all together. Injuries in football are like the poor, they will always be around. No number of programs and rules will completely get rid of the lower class, and the same goes for injuries. Case and point: from 2009-2010, concussions increased twenty-one percent. Twenty-one percent! This is after the NFL started gearing its rules towards reducing concussions. Instead of quickly churning out rules that are ineffective, the NFL should spend some time and money finding a few injury reducing rules that would actually have an impact.
So, do you guys at ROTB feel the same way? What did you guys think about Eric Weddle's hit?