- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2013


If Brandon Meriweather learned anything from his one-week NFL-mandated sabbatical, evidence is in short supply.

The same poor judgment the veteran Redskins safety has shown on the field this season continued Monday in the locker room at Redskins Park.

No contrition. No responsibility. Not even a no comment.

In five games this season, Meriweather has collected five helmet-to-helmet hits, two personal fouls, one concussion received (another delivered), a $42,000 fine and the suspension that cost him $70,588.

The latest two illegal hits against the Bears two weeks ago, of course, cost him the chance to play against the NFL’s top passing offense in Denver, forcing the Redskins to use a secondary held together by training tape and, presumably, prayer.

The 45-21 loss to the Broncos wasn’t Meriweather’s priority Monday, though. Not when the opportunity to toss around more macho double-talk existed for the man who has constructed a career around hurting himself, hurting others and hurting his team.

And, once again, he called attention to himself for all the wrong reasons.

“To be honest, man, you’ve just got to go low now, man,” Meriweather told reporters. “You’ve got to end people’s careers, you know? You’ve got to tear people’s ACLs and mess up people’s knees now. You can’t hit them high no more. You’ve just got to go low.”

Yes, end careers. From someone who knows the pain of a serious knee injury after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament last season. From someone whose response to finally being suspended after years worth of headhunting is petulance. From someone who should ask a few of the 4,800 ex-players suing the NFL about the long-term consequences of brain damage.

But, no. Meriweather wants to go for the knees. To hurt people. All because he can’t take head shots.

Each locker room has posters demonstrating the NFL’s preferred tackling technique. The dubious practicality of the approach in fast-paced game situations is a worthwhile debate. But there’s little excuse for not knowing what the league expects.

Why are so many teammates able to operate within those rules that so confound Meriweather?

In previous weeks, he pleaded ignorance about how to tackle in an era where the NFL is attempting to remove the head from the game. He could’ve initiated a needed discussion about the foggy line between legal and illegal hits and, really, the implausibility of preventing head-to-head contact. He could’ve had something constructive, even worthwhile, to say. That didn’t happen.

Instead, Meriweather continued to hide behind tough talk, whined about the NFL cracking down on aggressive plays and shifted blame.

Mike Shanahan insisted the suspension taught the safety a lesson. The nature of that lesson is debatable.

The best thing you can say about his week off is that he didn’t attempt to remove another opponent’s head.

Everything and everyone seems to be at fault — officials, rules, opponents — but him.

In response to Bears receiver Brandon Marshall suggesting Meriweather should be kicked out of the league, Meriweather’s petulance rose another notch.

“Everybody got their opinion,” Meriweather told reporters. “He feel like I need to be kicked out of the league? You know, I feel like people who beat their girlfriends should be kicked out the league, too. So, you tell me who you’d rather have: Somebody who play aggressive on the field, or somebody who beat up their girlfriend? You know, everybody got their opinion, so that’s mine, that’s his.”

A civil suit against Marshall was thrown out of court in 2012. And Meriweather is no stranger to a variety of trouble on and off the field. But why let pesky facts interfere with his attempt to deflect attention from the senseless hit that angered Marshall in the first place? That style of play, the one Meriweather sees as fulfilling the safety’s job to intimidate, is what led to this mess in the first place.

Sure, he can dish out late hits on the field. But the justifiable frustration they elicit — Meriweather’s technique has long been criticized by opponents — is enough to push him into the verbal abyss and make him act as if he’s somehow the victim. He can’t take the consequences.

But what message is Meriweather supposed to take from the suspension? The NFL screams safety from the rooftops. When opportunity enters to make an example of a longtime head-shot artist, the two-game wrist-slap is turned into a one-game finger-wag by an arbitrator and Meriweather emerges talking about injuring opponents.

The behavior is enough to make you worry about football’s toll on Meriweather. To make you wonder if a team with more depth than the Redskins at safety would admit the headache is too great and cut ties. To make you wonder if he learned anything when nothing seems to have changed.

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