Here's an interesting exchange Antonio Pierce had on Sirius Radio's The Red Zone with host Alex Marvez and former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer on the ever-tightening rules about hitting the quarterback. It will be interesting to see if any refs were listening, and whether the flags start flying because of Pierce's candor.
By the way, I happen to agree with Pierce. Way too much protection for the quarterback. I'm not saying defenders should charge in there head-hunting, but a guy should have the right to lay somebody out and not risk his own limbs to put him down gently.
Read Pierce's points and then tell me what you think.
Here's the exchange:
Host, Alex Marvez: “As a defensive player, is it just too much at this point, the protection of the quarterbacks? Has it gotten to an extreme level that you may as well put flags on them in your mind? Or do you understand where the NFL is coming from wanting to keep these guys upright?”
Antonio Pierce: “I think it’s getting the point where they’re making guys way too cautious out there in the National Football League. For one, we’ve got too much to think about with the plays and trying to see what the offense is running and vice versa. Now you’re saying, ‘Ok, you gotta hit the guy in between a 12 inch or a 24 inch radius in his sternum to his waistband.’ You know, sometimes, I don’t think anybody purposely goes out there and just says ‘I want to injure this guy and end his career.’ But at the same time, you got a job to do. As a linebacker your job is to get the running back down, receiver, quarterback, your job is to get them down. And you can’t go the perfect way about doing it. You know, you go through training camp trying to go through the perfect tackle, the perfect position for a blocker. In a game, you wanna get the guy down. And now you’re saying, ‘Ok, if I’m falling toward this guy’s knee, I gotta turn my whole body out and try to avoid this quarterback.’ You can hurt yourself as a defensive player trying to do things like that. I think the thing with Terrell Suggs, there’s no way that I think he had any intention of trying to hit Tom Brady in his knee. You can obviously see a lineman’s pushing him, his head’s down, his momentum is going towards it. Tom Brady doesn’t move. You got the quarterbacks now looking at the referee it’s like, ‘Hey you gotta call this.’ And the referee’s got no choice because that’s the franchise. Everyone puts it in their head that it’s the quarterback, it’s the quarterback. I know that there’s 86,000 people that come to Giants stadium that love watching Eli Manning but I’m pretty sure they like watching Osi Umeniyora and Justin Tuck and Antonio Pierce. So, just don’t protect the quarterback, try to protect all players and treat it fair.”
Host, Marty Schottenheimer: “You know, Antonio, it’s interesting to hear you say that because you know how I hold you in very, very high regard not only as a player but as a person. And I would’ve thought that your feeling would’ve been a little more moderate. I’m sensing from what I’m hearing from you that you think that the league shouldn’t be going with officiating in the direction they’re going and I want to make sure I understand it. You feel as though it is being over-officiated now trying to protect quarterbacks?”
Pierce: “I just think they’re putting the defensive player at risk. It’s hard enough to get to the quarterback with the protections and the way offensive lineman are built today and seven, eight man protections, that when you get to the quarterback you’re just trying to get him down. You know, back in the day I think there was a time when they were trying to wring quarterbacks around the necks and do whatever they can. We understand that [unintelligible]. You can’t do it. But at the same time, our job is to get the guy down. If you get near a receiver, a running back or a quarterback, you just wanna get him down. And in no way do I feel that there should just be everything extra, or go out the way to protect the quarterback. You know, there’s still certain blocks, a cut block is the one that does the most damage today. A defensive player, he gets cut from behind or gets cut in the front, I mean, it’s easy to get blown out a year from players getting cut. So, to me, it’s like, you know what, if I’m at risk for getting my career ended by a cut block, I should be getting the same opportunity. Of course I’m not the franchise player, I mean, the quarterback. But, give us some limitation, give us some limitation, give us some opportunity to make a play on the quarterback where he doesn’t stand in the pocket all day and just kill us for 400 yards.”
Schottenheimer: “You know, Antonio, I did not think it was a foul, the play against Brady. And I saw Brady immediately turn to the official looking for, ‘Hey, I need the flag.’ And I don’t agree with that but I also believe very strongly that if you’re going to err you need to err [on the side of] caution. Because the guy in the act of throwing is in the most defenseless position that he can be. And so I guess you and I - I still have great respect for you - but you and I don’t necessarily look at this thing in the same way, which is fine. It surprises me that you feel as you do but maybe it shouldn’t because you’re a tough, physical, defensive player.”
Pierce: “No, coach, what I mean by that is that I understand that you can’t hit a quarterback below his knees and hit him in his head. I understand that. But when you’re on the ground, and I’ve been taught by some of the greatest coaches of all time and they always said, ‘When you’re on the ground, get up. Get up and make a play, get to the quarterback. Get that guy down.’ And this rule that came into effect this year that when you’re on the ground you cannot lunge or reach for the quarterback near his legs. So now I gotta physically stand all the way up and try to tackle the quarterback. Ok, well, what if it’s Donovan McNabb, what if it’s Michael Vick, and I got a lineman in my back? What opportunity do I have to make a play? I understand that. I would love to hit the quarterback every time square in the chest but you don’t get that opportunity all the time. But when you’re there, near the quarterback, I’m not saying to attack his knees, but you need to get him down. And I don’t think, except for the one time with Brady getting hit in the knees, you don’t see it too often where the quarterback is taken out of the game for the whole year, or for the season, because the guy hit him low. And rarely does a defensive player want to hit a quarterback low anyway. They wanna knock him out right in the chest. That’s what I see. I don’t think, as a defensive player, as a linebacker, guys are like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna go and cut this quarterback.’ No, you wanna hit him right in the chest.”