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Mike Florio on D&C: ‘I’d be surprised’ if Brandon Meriweather isn’t suspended

10.19.10 at 2:14 pm ET
By
Mike Florio

Mike Florio

Appearing on the Dennis & Callahan Show Tuesday morning, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com and NBC Sports suggested that the NFL’s trade deadline (which is at 4 p.m. Tuesday) is too early, resulting in limited activity. “You can’t have a fire sale six weeks in,” Florio said.

Florio predicted that neither Logan Mankins of the Patriots nor the Chargers’ Vincent Jackson will be moved prior to the deadline, and that he believes the most likely player to get traded is Washington’s Albert Haynesworth. “I have a feeling, and it’s just a feeling, something is going on,” Florio said. He mentions the Texans as a possible fit, citing the relationship between the two teams’ head coaches, Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak, along with the Redskins’ potential interest in running back Steve Slaton.

Florio also touched on the NFL’s recent mandate regarding dangerous plays, saying that by including that there would be discipline for a “devastating hit” the “NFL may be overreacting a bit.” “The main focus should be, on both sides of the ball, from using their helmets as weapons,” he said. Florio still believes the problem regarding players leading with their helmets won’t go away, saying, “You’re going to have guys who don’t care. They’re going to wear it as a badge of honor if they get suspended.”

A transcript of highlights is below. To listen to the complete interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The extra clause that Ray Anderson put in his missive on “devastating hits” – is this something we have yet to find out what that means, how that applies and how that’s going to clean up football? What in your mind is devastating hits, or don’t we know yet?

We don’t know yet, and my concern is that the NFL may be overreacting a bit by putting that clause in there. I think that if a guy hits with his shoulder, and hits another guy anywhere from his shoulders to his waist and really all the way down to his feet, if he’s not a quarterback in the pocket, that’s a clean hit, even if it injures a player. The head is what needs to be protected and the main focus should be preventing players, on both sides of the ball, from using their helmets as weapons.

Whether it’s a defensive back or whether it’s a running back, like Adrian Peterson whom we’ve routinely see dropping his head and ramming it into defensive backs to try to get extra yardage. If you use your helmet as a weapon you should be penalized, fined, suspended, et cetera. That’s what the focus should be. There are going to be devastating hits that are perfectly clean.

Last night on ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown they were talking about the phenomenon, Keyshawn Johnson said, “I was once hit like that,” they showed the video, it was a clean hit. It was a shoulder pad to his midsection. It knocked him down, and sometimes that happens when two guys are moving in different directions. That’s a clean hit, and that’s what I think will be a very big problem for the league if they try to legislate those hits out of the game.

Can the NFL legislate less aggressive, less violent play out there on the field on Sundays?

Well you can’t keep it from happening. It’s just like the celebration penalties. People say, “Oh, it’s the no-fun league,” and guys get fined, but you know what? Guys still put a sombrero on or hide a cell phone under the pad of the goal post — they still do it. We’re still going to see guys who lead with their helmets, either because that’s the way they’ve played the game their entire lives or they don’t care about the fine, they don’t care about the suspension. They know that the way to get paid big money, and Rodney Harrison explains this very well, as a defensive back you either have to be a great cover corner, get a lot of interceptions or be known as a big hitter. And it’s part of the price to be paid. Now, Harrison explained that, you know, for me, fines I didn’t care about, suspensions got my attention. But you’re going to have guys that don’t care and wear it as a badge of honor if they get suspended.

Would you be stunned, would you be shocked if [Brandon] Meriweather does not get suspended and when do you expect that verdict could come down?

I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets suspended, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t. I think it’ll come Wednesday or Thursday, because they have to do something. A lot of what we’re seeing is reaction by the NFL. And this was a perfect storm of incidents that occurred within, I don’t know, 10-15 minutes. We were in the room at NBC watching the games, nine at a time, the early games on, and you see DeSean Jackson go down, you see Josh Cribbs go down, you see Todd Heap go down, you see Mohamed Massaquoi go down — it all happened in a very short period of time.

The NFL was getting flooded with questions. I was e-mailing guys like [NFL spokesman] Greg Aiello saying, “Hey, for example, you guys put out a memo 2007 saying that guys we’re going to be ejected for flagrant helmet-to-helmet hits, who’s been ejected?” Turns out no one. So they’re getting this blow back, they’re hearing it all day, they hear from [Tony] Dungy and Harrison on Sunday night. They have to do something to react. The reality is this may be a phenomenon we only see once every 20 years.

I don’t understand why they can’t eject a guy like Meriweather. Everybody knew it wasn’t a clean hit, the official on the scene threw the flag, why not just toss him there and then?

I think the officials have too much going on. And in real time, you’ve got to make a lot of decisions in 40 seconds. You have to decide do we throw the flag, where’s the ball spotted. You know, with everything else the officials have to do in 40 seconds, that’s a big decision to make. That’s a potentially game-altering decision to make in 40 seconds.

So, my suggestion is take it out of the hands the officials on the field. You have a replay official who’s up in the booth, put a safety official in the booth, too. Give those people the authority to buzz down to the referee and say, “There’s been a hit that justifies an ejection, you need to remove No. 37 from the field now.” Even if it comes a few minutes later, that’s the thing, there’s this mentality that we have to settle up all business before the next play. Replay review, throw the penalty flag, et cetera. Why do we have to eject a guy before the next play? Why can’t he be tapped on the shoulder five minutes later if the league office says, “Yeah, we’ve watched this play, that man has no business being on the field for the rest of the game. get him out of there.”

Is there any chance Meriweather gets more than one game?

I think it would just be one game, because it’s a first offense for him. If I’m not mistaken he hasn’t been fined for helmet-to-helmet hits. But that was the most obvious one. I mean, you see the big tall guy up in the air, Todd Heap, and the little Meriweather just kind of, like, you know, crank down on his knees and launch right into him. I mean, that was as flagrant as it gets. I can’t imagine a more flagrant helmet-to-helmet hit. So, they’ve got to put him down for game.

So you think [James] Harrison gets suspended also and maybe not Daunte Robinson, is that your guess?

Well, I don’t know. I don’t know that anybody the league office has the nerve to suspend James Harrison. I know I wouldn’t. But, you know, Harrison’s wasn’t as flagrant. Harrison should be fined and he should be fine heavily. I don’t know that he gets suspended. And here’s part of the challenge, too – can you really suspend Brandon Meriweather for a first offense if the rule isn’t adopted at the time the hit occurred? The launching rule is in place, but the practice has been you don’t suspend a guy for a first offense. So he could have a grievance, and it may not matter, the NFL may do it anyway.

Union owners, players and management aside — will this debate break down on an age basis where old school guys like Matt Millen will say, “Ah, you’re trying to turn it into a flag football league,” and the younger observers of the NFL say, “Something had to be done here, it was getting to the point where there’s just too much violence, just too many injuries.”

Isn’t it funny how all the guys who have survived their NFL careers are the ones who want to continue to see these guys subjected to this kind of risk? I mean, I hear it all the time, there’s this notion that you’re not a real man if you don’t have this blood lust, to see helmets cracked into other helmets and guys lay on the field motionless. And, you know, that’s been that notion ever since this debate started on Sunday. The former players, who don’t have to worry about this anymore, all want to see these players out there dealing with the same risks they had to deal with. And I don’t know that I agree with that.

I think, in a way, there is an envy there. Because the guys today are making a lot more money than they were, and they envy that and say guys today should have to go through the same grief, the same pain that I went through.

That’s a great point. “We got a lot less money and we’re carrying these scars around for the rest of our lives, these guys are getting paid more money, they get more glory, the NFL’s more popular than ever, and now that we’re taking away the risk that goes along with making all that money and getting all that glory.” So, I think there’s a certain element of that in there. A lot of these guys like Matt Millen aren’t necessarily smart enough to piece all that together, they’re just reacting to instinct.

Trade deadline today at 4 o’clock – anything percolating?

I think the one to watch is the one that the Redskins deny is going to happen, which is Albert Haynesworth. And I have a feeling, and it’s just a feeling, that something’s going on. And I think they wanted to see what happened last night with the Tennessee Titans, who beat the Jaguars 30-3 in Monday Night Football. If the Titans would’ve lost an interior defensive lineman to a torn ACL, then I think the Titans would have been more likely to say, “We’ll give you a second-round pick and for Albert Haynesworth.”

I think the team to watch, and I’ve got nothing to base this on but that hasn’t stopped me before, the team to watch is the Houston Texans. They need to beef up their pass rush, there’s a longstanding relationship between Texans coach Gary Kubiak and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. And also, the Texans have a running back who could be pretty good that isn’t playing much, and that’s Steve Slaton. The Redskins need help at running back. I think there’s a way to work something out, and it’s possible that they’ve already kind of had something worked out, but Shanahan wanted to wait to see what happened with the Titans last night. Or whether to see whether the Titans step up and try to get involved even without an injury last night.

Any smoke signals whatsoever on Vincent Jackson or Logan Mankins?

Nothing at this point, and I think if anything was going to happen we’d have heard about it by now. I just don’t think either team is going to move either guy. And I’m surprised because once it came out last week that these guys are going to show up, to the extent that the Chargers really don’t want Jackson around or the Patriots really don’t want Mankins around, that gave them a window of opportunity to try to trade these guys, but there’s been no talk that either guy is going to get moved.

Is the explanation as to why so little activity takes place prior to the NFL trading deadline, vs. Major League Baseball, simply because it’s difficult for a NFL player to go from one team to another and assimilate himself into that program?

I think part of it also is the trade deadline is too early in the NFL. It’s only six weeks in. You know, you can’t have a fire sale six weeks in. And I think the NFL wants to avoid that fire sale mentality, which is one of the reasons why the trade deadline isn’t Thanksgiving. But if I’m a bad team and I’ve got no hope, I mean, it’s not like the fans are going to show up for my games in December anyway. Let me unload some of these guys and let me get some draft picks or something that’s going to help me be more competitive in the future.

But I think part of that also is they want to avoid a situation where a team’s going to go out there and load up with a great player who may help get them over the top. But you’re right, your point is well taken. We’ve seen teams try to assimilate players on the fly and it really doesn’t work all that well for the most part.

The Deion Branch situation is the exception not the rule.

Sending a guy back to his former team, and even though in Minnesota I don’t think anybody’s there who was there when Randy Moss was traded, there’s a certain sense of familiarity that I think makes a trade work. But it’s just a rare situation where we can see Moss go to Minnesota and then his spot be taken by Deion Branch who comes in and picks up right where he left off with the Patriots.

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Brandon Meriweather, James Harrison, Logan Mankins
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