Redskins strong safety Brandon Meriweather has been suspended for the first two games of the regular season following an illegal hit on Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith in a preseason game on Saturday, the NFL announced.
In a seven-paragraph statement, the league determined that Meriweather “delivered a forceful blow to the head and neck area of a defenseless receiver with no attempt to wrap up or make a conventional tackle of this player.”
That violates Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7, the statement notes, which outlaws unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture. Such a position, the rule further clarifies, includes “[a] receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner.”
Meriweather hit Smith on a play that began with 12:16 remaining in the second quarter. He said after the game that he did not know if he would be disciplined by the league; in the statement, it was noted that the violation is Meriweather’s sixth as he enters his eighth season.
“I’m trying to do what the NFL has me [doing] after going through this offseason — going down and working on the things that I need to work on, and the first chance I get, the first test I get, it seems like I failed,” Meriweather said Saturday.
The suspension was handed down by Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations and a five-time Pro Bowl safety.
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Meriweather has three days to appeal the suspension, though it seems unlikely that such a tactic would be successful. He was handed a two-game suspension last year following a hit on Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall that was negotiated down to one game.
He also was fined $42,000 for a hit on Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy early last season. All told, Meriwather has been fined more than $127,000 for illegal hits during his career.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Monday that Meriweather “did the best he could” when it came to the hit on Smith.
“Flacco threw a late one across the middle and he saw the ball and [Meriweather] tried to lower his target,” Gruden said. “Unfortunately, as he was lowering his target, the receiver felt him and lowered his head also at the same time. It was a bang-bang play. It’s going to be up to the commissioner and the people looking at that whether or not he’s going to get fined or what have you.”
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall joked Monday morning that Meriweather should “keep hitting and I’ll pay the fine.”
Meriweather’s absence for the first two games further muddies an unstable secondary. Phillip Thomas, who worked as the second-team strong safety during training camp and the preseason, missed all of last season because of a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot and the game against New England on Aug. 7 because of a strained hamstring. He again sat out of practice on Monday after experiencing soreness in the same foot following Saturday’s game.
Bacarri Rambo, Trenton Robinson, Akeem Davis and Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith have also practiced at strong safety over the past five weeks.