It apparently didn’t occur to Brandon Meriweather while living in another world — Planet Nutjob — that Junior Seau committed suicide, Aaron Hernandez awaits trial for murder, and the NFL is trying desperately to alter its image as a league of violent people who hunt heads on the field and wield guns off it. Amid a grave concussion crisis that threatens football’s ultimate existence, the Washington Redskins safety wants to be THAT GUY — the defiant idiot who continues to use his helmet as a weapon.
Undeterred by a one-game suspension for repeated helmet-first hits against defenseless receivers, Meriweather sent shock waves through the league this week by declaring he might have to intentionally “take peoples’ knees out” if he no longer can apply hits to the head. A warning to kids, parents and anyone worried about football players and their long-term quality of life: This is sick stuff from a man who should be banned from the league for life, if not confined to a straitjacket.
“I guess I’ve just got to take people’s knees out. I’d hate to end a guy’s career over a rule, but I guess it’s better (for that to happen to) other people than me getting suspended for longer.
“You’ve just got to go low now. You’ve got to end people’s career. You’ve got to tear people’s ACLs and mess up people’s knees now. You can’t hit ’em high anymore.”
When Meriweather said it the first time, maybe there was sarcasm. When he said it the second time, and you consider his history of hurling himself at receivers’ heads like a wreckingball, I sensed only intent — and feared for the other receivers he’ll face this season. This is a man with a long history of hits to the head, and a week ago, there was hope Meriweather might learn a lesson after the NFL punished him with a two-game suspension. But inexplicably, the suspension was reduced to one game by a hearing officer, former NFL coach Ted Cottrell, just as a one-game suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit against Tampa Bay safety Dashon Goldson earlier this season was reduced to only a fine by an appeals officer, former NFL player Matt Birk. The third-party hearings were agreed upon jointly by the league and the Players Association. Next time, commissioner Roger Goodell should demand the presence of another decision-maker at the hearing — someone with a medical degree — because reducing a head-hunting suspension only feeds and enables a monster.
Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, who was cracked on the helmet by Meriweather on an incomplete pass play two weekends ago, suggested that Meriweather should be thrown out of the league. “Guys like that really don’t understand that there is life after football,” Marshall told the Chicago Tribune. “I respect the league is trying to better our game, and guys like that, maybe he needs to get suspended or taken out of the game completely. I understand. I get it.”
Meriweather’s response? Another low blow, verbally. “If he feels like, you know, I need to be kicked out of the league, I feel like people who beat their girlfriends should be kicked out of the league, too,” he said. “You tell me who you’d rather have somebody who plays aggressive on the field, or somebody who beat up their girlfriend?” Marshall was accused of domestic violence by a girlfriend during his Denver Broncos career and allegedly was stabbed by his wife in 2011, but he never was convicted. He refused comment about Meriweather when asked by Chicago media, but he did write this on his Twitter feed:
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
Later, on ESPN 1000 in Chicago, Marshall expressed worry for Meriweather. Remember, the wielder of the punishment also incurs head trauma. “He actually reached out to me last week, and I told him that I was more concerned about him and his health,” Marshall said. “Because I think a few weeks before our game, I saw him lying on the field just out cold. It was a scary situation. I never want to see him or any player laid out like that. As far as what he said, you can only pray for someone with those feelings. So that’s all I have to say about that.”
While concussions remain the league’s biggest concern, ACL tears have become an issue as defensive players look for ways to make a living and tackle people below the neck. Green Bay’s Randall Cobb was the most recent victim of a lower hit, breaking his leg, and Miami tight end Dustin Keller was lost for the year in August with an ACL tear.
Of course, all of this violence doesn’t stop fans from tuning in. NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” series is the highest-rated NFL prime-time program in 17 years, with an average of 22.7 million viewers through the first seven weeks, per Sports Illustrated. Compare that to the 14-million average Fox attracted for the first four games of a compelling Boston-St. Louis World Series.
The familiar conclusion, even now: Violence sells.
All the more reason Goodell should ban Meriweather before he ruins someone’s career, if not worse.