A (Sort-Of) Defense of Brandon Meriweather

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It's easy to rail against Brandon Meriweather after his recent suspension and subsequent comments, but Tom says the controversial defensive back may have a point or two - even if they're flawed.

I was at work on Monday when the story of Brandon Meriweather's comments broke.  I first learned about them via a series of retweets from our own Keely Diven.  The gist of the tweets was that Meriweather had said some terrible things about Brandon Marshall, although it was difficult to understand the context in 140 characters or less.

Then, on Facebook, a media member friend of mine linked to a story on Meriweather's remarks, including a brief editorial ("Stay classy") with the link.  This time, while the Marshall comments were still an issue, the focus seemed to be on what Meriweather said regarding the impact of his suspension on his future tackling efforts.

For reference, Meriweather made two basic points:

1. His first argument was that the NFL's anti-concussion efforts and the associated rules are inevitably(?) going to lead to him taking out players' knees.  Quote: "To be honest, man, you have to go low now, man.  You have to end people's career. You got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people knees now. You can't hit them high anymore. You just have to go low."

2. Meriweather's second point was that Brandon Marshall (who suggested players like Meriweather should be banned from the NFL) shouldn't throw stones from his glass house, because someone who beats up women lives in that house (spoiler: It's Brandon Marshall).  Quote: "[Marshall] felt, like you know, that I need to be kicked out of the league.  I feel like people who beat they girlfriends should be kicked out of the league, too. So you tell me who you would rather have: Somebody who play aggressive on the field or somebody who beat up they girlfriend?"

Predictably, there was a wave of anti-Meriweather sentiment.

Sincere contrarianism is normally Harrison Weinhold's domain, not mine.  But there's something to be said in Meriweather's defense.  I'll address each of his points separately.

First, his argument about head-hunting is one that's been brought up before by other hard-hitting, oft-fined players like James Harrison.  To be honest, they make a not-entirely-unreasonable argument: NFL players deliver major punishment to the opposition.  That will be true whether players aim for the head or elsewhere.  Eliminating the high tackle (really just a projectile-esque hit more than a true tackle) by rule makes it much more likely that players looking to do damage (but stay within the rules) will produce a season-ending injury to a knee or lower leg.

While I agree that this is absolutely true, it isn't the entire story.  It omits one very obvious logical leap.  Namely, that there are more than two kinds of hits.  If a player doesn't head-hunt, it does not follow that he is then obliged to attack knees.

Now, that uptick in lower-body injuries will likely occur, because a lot of players have the same "aggressive" mentality as Meriweather (even if they don't happily admit it to anyone with a microphone or camera).  But saying that not being able to head-hunt means a player is forced to attack ACLs is like saying counterfeiting being illegal forces someone to rob banks.  There are legal ways to make money.

And the methods of making a tackle in the NFL aren't confined to "attempted decapitation" and "sweep the leg."

As for the other point, and Meriweather's personal attack on Marshall, I'm not entirely clear on why this is a cheap shot.

Is it because personal attacks are per se "cheap?"  Is it because Marshall has been diagnosed with a personality disorder, and, therefore, we can't judge?  Is it because none of Marshall's run-ins with violence directed at (three different) women over the years resulted in a conviction?  (Respectively: Case dismissed upon completion of anger-management classes, charges dropped, and an investigation ended after a lack of sufficient evidence)

I would have preferred Meriweather take the high road after Marshall suggested the Redskins safety be kicked out of the league.  However, let's not turn either one of these guys into a victim.  Unclean hands and all that.

Meriweather was correctly suspended in my view.  On the other hand, I also have no sympathy for guys who (allegedly) hit women.  Repeatedly (allegedly).

The solution to avoiding hurt feelings over someone saying you beat your girlfriend is never beating your girlfriend in the first place.  So simple!

Having said all that, Marshall isn't the one raising a stink.  As is often the case, certain media members are getting pretending to get upset on his behalf.  In fact, and to his credit, Marshall himself has not responded in kind to Meriweather's latest commentary, except to say that he'll "pray" for him, and that the two just have different views on player safety.

I know we live in an era when (often faux, media-created) outrage is the norm, but none of this chatter upsets me in the least.  While a bunch of columnists now get to write "Meriweather JUST DOESN'T GET IT" pieces, I only agree with them to this extent: As I said recently, if Meriweather is at a point where he knows certain types of hits are illegal, but he defiantly continues to make those kinds of hits notwithstanding the damage it does to the team (penalties, suspensions), then that should quite reasonably be unacceptable to his employer.

But actions speak louder than words.  Making himself a target for league scrutiny probably wasn't wise, but he can say what he wants -- even if it's silly bravado or basic frustration -- so long as he stops costing his team once he gets on the field again.  The point at which he starts acting against his team's interests and some of his own is the point when I check out.  When he isn't doing those things, he's a very solid player.

Personally, I look forward to having him back.

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