“I think the job of a safety is to instill fear. And I think you can’t do that with, you know, pulling off,” Brandon Meriweather Monday, before the league handed him a two-game suspension for two illegal hits against the Bears.
Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather received a two-game suspension from the NFL Monday for ”repeat violations this season of NFL safety rules prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players.” In addition to the on-field suspension, Meriweather will forfeit $141,176 in game checks.
Meriweather was penalized for unnecessary roughness in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against Chicago for a forcible helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver and again in the fourth quarter for a forcible hit to the head and neck area of a defenseless receiver.
In Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers, Meriweather delivered an illegal hit with the top/crown of the helmet to a runner who was outside the tackle box. He was fined $42,000 for that violation.
On the first penalty on Sunday, it appeared that Meriweather led more with his shoulder and that the helmets made contact as a result of proximity. But on the second hit, the veteran safety definitely led with his helmet and forearm.
After the game Sunday, Meriweather was defiant in defending his play. “I feel like every hit that I took was a legit hit,” Meriweather said Sunday in the locker room at FedEx Field. “I wasn’t trying to be dirty. I wasn’t trying to hurt nobody. I didn’t launch with my head. I used my shoulder like they told me to do.”
On Monday from Redskins Park, Meriweather had become more diplomatic, but still defended his actions and history. Asked if the thought the first hit was a penalty, he offered a reasoned response.
“To be honest, I don’t know. I think that’s a rule based on who’s watching. One ref said it was good, another said it was bad. I think it’s gonna be just like that with the NFL. I think one person will look at it in slow motion and say ‘He could have did this, he could have did that,’ and one person would be like, ‘Going full speed you wouldn’t have time to think about that,’ and it’s a good hit. I think it all depends on who’s watching.”
But considering his history, would he try to change his game?
“The last two-three weeks I’ve tried everything possible,” Meriweather said. “I’ve lowered my target, I stopped using my head. I’m using my shoulder. No matter what I do, honestly, I feel like I’m gonna be in the wrong. If I hit you with my shoulder and I slide up, they’re still gonna say it’s head-to-head.”
So, is the league then specifically watching his actions?
“Am I being targeted? No, I don’t wanna say that. I would hope not. My play depends on how much money I make, so I hope I’m not getting targeted. They’re trying to be safe, and the only way to be safe is to do what they’re doing. At the same time, this is tackle football. I think the job of a safety is to instill fear. And I think you can’t do that with, you know, pulling off.”
Meriweather has long had a reputation for headhunting, and that likely played into the league’s decision to suspend him two games. With the league crackdown on illegal hits to the head – and the negative publicity to the league following the concussion lawsuit and “League of Denial” expose on head trauma in the NFL, it’s not surprising Meriweather earned his two-week time out.
In his Monday morning press conference, Mike Shanahan stated he didn’t think Meriweather would be suspended, but made comments about Meriweather’s “style.”
“Well, I think he knows exactly what he has to do and sometimes there’s no intent there,” Shanahan said, “Sometimes you hit a guy a little bit higher than anticipated. Even on the last one, he came to the sideline and said, ‘Hey, the one guy told me it was a good hit and the other official told me that he saw it differently.’ There are a lot of different interpretations of it. At the end of the day, we’ll find out.”