- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Two games isn’t enough.

Not for helmet-hunting Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather.

Not if you believe the League of Denial is gone.

Not when the league that built a multibillion-dollar business on violent collisions proclaims that safety is — and has always been — the top priority.

Washington Redskins' Brandon Meriweather is helped off the field during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
Washington Redskins’ Brandon Meriweather is helped off the field during the first ... more >

Not with the large NFL-mandated posters on the wall in the Redskins locker room at FedEx Field with pictures of correct tackling technique — the same form-tackling that’s trotted out every decade or two under a new name as a panacea for the game’s ills.

Not if you swallow the line that use of the head can be legislated out of football, never mind the uncomfortable realities of anatomy and physics that make detaching the head from such activities, well, problematic.

If the public relations pushes and blustering speeches and slick commercials and stern warnings in those posters are anything more than posturing to maintain the illusion that behavior of wayward players, not football, is the problem, then Meriweather should be suspended for the rest of the season. Not the pin-prick of two games, half of the four games Redskins defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, for example, received for ingesting a tainted over-the-counter substance he purchased at a nutrition store. The decision shouldn’t be difficult.

Meriweather, after all, isn’t just a repeat offender. The 29-year-old has made a career of helmet-to-helmet shots, hidden behind the hyper-macho canard that his job as a safety is to instill fear. So, he’s left his feet, popped defenseless receivers, aimed his helmet at heads, delivered concussions and sustained them, never mind if the recklessness costs his team yards or costs him consciousness. That has resulted in fines as repeated as the hits but, until Monday, never a suspension.

Two more senseless head shots in the second half of Sunday’s game against the Bears forced the league to act. That upped Meriweather’s season total to five head shots, including one against Packers running back James Starks where Meriweather knocked himself out. The NFL ruled that hit legal.

Between jokes about collecting money to pay for the inevitable punishment, Meriweather professed confusion following the Bears game as to how he’s supposed to tackle. The statement came within eyesight of the heads-up posters. No one noticed the irony.

Meriweather isn’t a sympathetic character, no matter how much teammates insisted the NFL and referees are out to get him. While playing at Miami, for instance, he stomped on Florida International players during a brawl in 2006.

Yes, Meriweather is a headhunter. But he also reflects the fault lines — conflicts, really — that have emerged as football grapples with the brain-damage crisis that’s not going away.

The two hits against the Bears, viewed through the prism of slow-motion replays, induce winces. They’re ugly. They’re reckless. They’re exactly what the NFL wants to erase from the game — or look like it’s erasing.

The truth, though, isn’t as clear as a replay. Helmets collide on virtually every play. These aren’t accidents or anomalies. They’re just not as a dramatic as Meriweather trying to decapitate Brandon Marshall in the end zone while the ball falls harmlessly a few inches from the turf. Check out the men line on the line of scrimmage. Play after play.

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