Pollard says NFL is enticing defenders to go for knees

Strong safety thinks rules protecting players make it harder for defensive players to tackle

October 26, 2011|By Edward Lee

Bernard Pollard was flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty described by referee Carl Ceffers as a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver in the third quarter of the Ravens’ 12-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars Monday night.

But coach John Harbaugh defended the hit as being legal and Pollard said he has yet to receive a letter from the NFL informing him of a fine, which is usually a result for players cited for such a penalty.

But the starting strong safety sounded off on the league’s rules on contact, saying the limitations could have an adverse effect on how defensive players tackle their offensive counterparts.

“Like I’ve said before, with these rules they’re putting in, you’re going to get guys hurt because now when you tell a guy, ‘OK, don’t hit in the chest. We know you can’t hit in the head, but don’t hit in the chest either,’ what everybody is going to start doing is going after people’s knees because you’ve got to bring them down some way, somehow,” Pollard said after Wednesday’s practice. “So now when you get those hits on the knees, you’re going to have some guys going out. So are they going to make this flag football? You never know. So I think with the rules they’re implementing, we’ve got to be ready to go. We’ve got to be ready as defenders. We respond, and we react, and we react to them. So when you have quick passes, you’ve got to get them down some way, somehow. We all know and understand that we cannot take the face shots because you’ve got the concussions and everything else. But you can’t shut us off and tell us that we can’t hit the chest or we can’t lean in with our shoulder and hit them in the shoulder or chest.”

Pollard has a very short history with tackling low. His hit on Tom Brady’s left knee while crawling to make a sack in the 2008 season opener sidelined the New England Patriots quarterback for the remainder of the year.

Since then, the NFL has adopted new rules to protect quarterbacks, adding restrictions to hitting quarterbacks in the head and knees. The league has since expanded those protections to what it refers to as defenseless receivers, players in the act of making a catch who can’t brace themselves for a devastating impact.

Pollard, who said he could envision a scenario where tackles may come under the purview of challenges, said he understands the NFL’s intentions.

“I think at the end of the day, the league is trying to protect players,” he said. “At the same time, while they’re protecting players, this is a sport that’s violent. You can’t say, ‘Go get in a car crash, but be careful.’ This is a car wreck every single play with guys. So we know and understand how to take care of our bodies as far as what’s a violent shot and what’s an unnecessary violent shot. Football’s football. If you asked me to go do it again this Sunday, I’m doing the same thing. So they’re either going to keep flagging us or they’re going to have to do something about this rule.”

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