- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 20, 2013


Sometime Monday, Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather expects his phone to ring. Maybe it will be Tuesday instead. But a call is coming. He knows it is coming.

In an otherwise happy Redskins locker room Sunday at FedEx field, a storm cloud hovered over the team’s 45-41 victory over the Chicago Bears. It was only the second victory in six games for the Skins, so they had every right to be happy.

Meriweather, though, who has a history of such things, was flagged twice more for illegal hits.

Will he get another fine? Maybe a suspension this time?

“I sure hope not, because I know it’s not intentional,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said.

You have to figure Shanahan is likely to be disappointed. It will be a bit of a surprise if Meriweather is allowed to suit up when the Redskins play again next Sunday against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

A suspension seems like the only way to get the message across, though frankly one has to wonder if the message will ever get across at this point.

Meriweather has been fined a bunch in recent years, including $42,000 earlier this year for illegal hits in a loss at Green Bay. In 2011, Sports Illustrated reported he had been fined $95,000 since the start of the previous season. So that’s $137,000 just from that and this season.

With more undoubtedly to come.

Meriweather was remorseful afterward, though it was mixed in with a bit of defiance and confusion. He said the refs have a hard job, harder than his. They have to make split-second decisions. He understands rules are in place to keep everyone as safe as it is possible to be in a violent game.

And he swears, repeatedly, that he has changed his ways, that he tries to follow the rules. Yet he’s still getting flagged.

“You all have seen me play,” he told a crowd of media reps surrounding his locker. “The last 2-3 weeks, I’ve tried everything possible. I’ve lowered my target. I stopped using my head. I’m using my shoulder. No matter what I do, I feel like I’m going to be in the wrong.

“If I use my shoulder and I slide up, they’re going to say it is head-to-head. If I hit them too low, I think somebody got flagged for hitting too low. It all depends on who’s watching. I don’t think we can be right.”

Sorry, but it just doesn’t wash. No one is alleging Meriweather is out to hurt anyone. He’s as liable to get hurt as anybody else. In fact, he did injure himself in that game against Green Bay. The problem is he doesn’t seem to have any idea how to tackle properly.

The Bears ran 50 plays Sunday. Throw in some punts and kick returns and there were a lot of tackles to be made. Lots of tackles are made every week that aren’t flagged. If the rules are so darn confusing, wouldn’t others be similarly affected?

Why does it always seem to be the same guy?

Meriweather, in the contrite mode, doesn’t think he’s being targeted.

“I don’t want to say that,” he said. “I would hope not. I think they’re trying to be safe. I think the only way to be safe is to do what they’re doing. At the same time, this is tackle football. A job of a safety is to instill fear. “

Which can be done with hard, legal tackles that many others in the league seem to be able to make every week.

Teammate Barry Cofield said a reputation can follow you and be hard to shake. There’s no question Meriweather has a reputation. Cofield offered a comparison to the Lions’ Ndamukong Suh, who has also seen his bank account take significant hits.

“Yeah, I just heard somebody make some comments about that, that they were kind of after him and then I was just connecting that to Meriweather as far as I do think you get a reputation and they are kind of quick to flag you or quick to fine you if you do have that track record.”

Meriweather is 29, in his seventh year in the league. The rep can indeed be hard to shake. Perhaps he’d be better off learning the right way to tackle. He should have some time off coming to do some observing.

He darn near hurt his team Sunday when his second penalty put the Bears on the Redskins’ 7 and led to their go-ahead touchdown. Worse, he could hurt himself or someone else very badly.

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who has had his share of personal fouls but seems to have a grip on legal tackling, said there is indeed confusion out there. He called it an offensive league. He doesn’t see it getting any better.

“Unless you want to just two-hand touch guys, it is going to be tough in the coming years,” Hall said. “I’m glad I’m on the way out. I won’t have to deal with this mess.”

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