After the season-ending injury to Miami tight end Dustin Keller as a result of a low hit from Houston safety D.J. Swearinger, some high-profile offensive players have commented on how such hits have no place in football.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez had harsh criticism for Swearinger and any other player who goes after the knees of opposing players. The NFL has said it will discuss the issue with the competition committee over the offseason.
Those developments have Steelers safety Ryan Clark wondering how defensive players can adapt.
"I'm so disgusted with the NFL right now about those situations," Clark said. "If an offensive player makes enough of a stink, they'll change it. I know Tony Gonzalez was extremely upset about the hit on Dustin Keller. I understand that. I believe, and some of you may have the film, I said if you start penalizing guys and fining guys for hits up top ... Some of these hits up top are not illegal.
"I remember a hit I had on Victor Cruz last year, which was clearly legal, but it gave up seven points. I hurt my team by doing something I deemed legal and something the NFL also deemed legal by not fining me.
"So you go to the other extreme. The guys know there is no way possible [to] get fined if [they] go low. It will be one or the other. Guys will hit up high and maybe risk getting a concussion or hurting a shoulder. When you get hit low, the season is going to be over. If they decide to change this rule, they might as well put flags on because you'll give a guy who is 200 pounds, like myself, a 2-foot area to stop a guy who is 240 or 250 running at full speed. They might as well just take us off the field and see how many points you can score on offense in 60 minutes."
When Clark was asked if defensive players could simply wrap a player's legs instead of driving their force into the lower part of the body, he explained why that is a bad idea.
"It would be soft and stupid," he said. "If I have to run up and wrap up a guy's leg and he falls forward, or I fall back, I don't want that. If I'm hitting him at the yard marker and I'm trying to stop his forward progress, and he falls forward for the first down, it's a whole new set of downs and now I've done my job insufficiently. I think they're putting us at a disadvantage if they ask us to do that. And also now I'm in a position where I can get hurt. I don't know if I'm getting hit in the side of the head with a knee.
"So, in some sense, you're protecting another player, but you're putting another one in harm's way, both physically and career-wise in terms of him losing his starting job."