NFL’s Defense of Terrell Suggs a Problem for the Game

Terrell Suggs after hitting Bradford

In week 2 of the NFL preseason, Sam Bradford made his first start for the Philadelphia Eagles after recovering from a second ACL tear that sidelined him for most of last season. He was impressive, completing 3-of-5 passes and leading the Eagles to a touchdown in his only drive of the game. But what stuck out to me was Terrell Suggs’ incredibly dirty hit on Bradford during the fifth play of the game, and the response from the NFL shortly afterward.

During the play, Bradford handed the ball off to a running back only to be hit by Terrell Suggs at his knees. While it can be debated about whether this was a zone read run play, the fact is that Bradford was a defenseless player who clearly did not have the football. Yet he was hit at the knees.

Suggs was initially  assessed a 15-yard penalty on the play, but days after the game the NFL’s Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino, claimed the hit should have been legal. Blandino claimed Bradford was carrying out a read option play and was a potential runner, and thus the hit was legal.

Sam Bradford takes a hit in the knees from Terrell Suggs during week 2 of the NFL Preseason

From Video

Sam Bradford takes a hit in the knees from Terrell Suggs.

What the NFL ignores, however, is that Suggs did not even look at the running back, hand-off mesh point, or even the ball. He took several steps forward, and put his head down and dove into Sam Bradford’s knees.

It can be debated whether this was a read option play that would have allowed Suggs to legally hit Bradford. What is clear is that in a meaningless preseason game and after the ball was clearly handed off, Suggs deliberately tried to injure the opposing quarterback. His comments to the media after the game supported those ideas.

“When you run the read option, you’ve got to know the rules,” Suggs said. “If you want to run the read option with your starting quarterback that’s had two knee surgeries, that’s on you. That’s not my responsibility to update you on the rules, you see what I’m saying? I could have hit him harder than that. I didn’t. I eased up.”

If the NFL is going to allow these kinds of hits, the Eagles are going to need Tebow at some point.

From Video

If the NFL is going to allow these kinds of hits, the Eagles are going to need Tim Tebow at some point.

After several years of fighting off bad press regarding research about the effect of concussions, the health issues former players face, and a bounty scandal regarding one of the league’s premier teams, it is shocking to hear the NFL support Suggs’ action and try to justify it. This sets a terrible example for both NFL defenders told to hit and hurt quarterbacks while defending zone read plays, and to young kids playing football at the game’s lower levels.

How can youth football coaches be expected to coach kids to play the game in a safe way if the NFL is going to pretend it is okay to dive at the knees of a defenseless player as long as he is running a zone read? How are coaches expected to teach kids to keep their heads up and tackle in the midsection if one of the league’s top defensive players dives headfirst at the knees of an exposed and unprotected player?

How are coaches expected to teach kids to not try to deliberately injure the opponent if the kids see such behavior at the professional level?

I love football. I love the way it can teach young men how to work hard, play as a team, and to persevere through obstacles. However, fans should not tolerate a professional league preaching safety at its lower levels while allowing one of its marquee players to try to deliberately injure another human being due to a silly technicality.

Its a good thing Chip Kelly has four quarterbacks on his roster. If this is how the NFL is going to encourage defenses to play against the zone read, Kelly might need every single one before the end of the season.

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Jimmy Friedricks

Jimmy Friedricks

I am a Sophomore at the University of Oregon majoring in Advertising with a minor in Business. Born and raised in Los Angeles, I grew up loving sports but football is easily my favorite as I played Quarterback in High School and spend my summers coaching local youth football teams. I am currently a member of the Oregon Marching Band where I’ve had the wonderful experiences of playing at the Alamo Bowl, marching the Rose Parade as well as the Rose Bowl Game, and performing at the National Championship. Other than the Ducks, my favorite teams are the Lakers, Dodgers, Los Angeles Kings, and the New York Jets. After college, I hope to use my passion for sports to pursue a career in sports marketing, with my dream being to work for one of my favorite teams. Follow me on Twitter @JimmsDuck3 and Go Ducks!

  • lorenbaker

    So are you saying that there should be no tackling or hitting in football?

    • themule

      That is obviously not what anyone is saying and is a reckless oversimplification of an issue that has been and continues to be a very serious and relevant issue in the NFL. The NFL has since clarified what they consider to have been the proper ruling is in the situation and, for better or worse, that clarification stands. To myself and others, there were at least three elements to consider in this instance: (1) can you tackle a QB, or any other player, who does not have possession of the ball, (2) the lateness of such a hit when a player relinquishes possession of the ball, and (3) deliberately hitting a player, particularly a QB, in the knees. The NFL ruled on item (1) with regards to that play, and completely ignored the other two. The implications of such a ruling were very obviously the subject of this article…Go ducks.

  • Rusty

    I really doubt that Bradford is going to ever try and run the zone read…

  • duckusucker

    I watched the tape five times. I’m not a Suggs fan, but here he’s okay. He is in a position to tackle the ball carrier but does not. He obviously thinks the QB has it. He doesn’t go for the knees, he goes for a glancing blow at the legs, which he delivers. Bradford, actually, exposed himself to a possible injury by standing still after the handoff: he should keep moving to deflect any possible contact.

  • John John

    take off the pc minded mind-conditioning, nothing worse then self-righteouness and moral high-handedness,, and why are eagels your subjet anyway? lol.. oregonians are too shallow and brainwashed leftist pc’ers. Save the piety and preaching for yourself. Is this predominantly that fishduck is becoming now?