The NFL has done a lot to protect players from head injuries, mostly by constant discipline for players who hit ball-carriers high.
Putting that thought into the heads of defensive players might have led to Miami tight end Dustin Keller suffering a horrible knee injury on Saturday night.
Houston rookie safety D.J. Swearinger hit Keller low as Keller tried to bring in a pass, and he hit Keller on the knee with devastating results. Keller is out for the season. ESPN reported Keller tore his ACL, PCL and MCL, and also dislocated his knee. The Miami Herald reported doctors fear nerve damage in the knee as well. This injury could possibly end Keller's career.
Swearinger said he went low on Keller because going high often draws a fine.
“I was making a hit playing football,” Swearinger told the Palm Beach Post. “In this league you’ve got to go low. If you go high you’re going to get a fine.”
Swearinger went on to say the league's focus on protecting heads and not knees is wrong.
“The rules say you can’t hit high so I went low and I’m sorry that happened,” Swearinger told the Palm Beach Post. “I would think you’d rather have more concussions than leg injuries. Leg injury, you can’t come back from that. A concussion, you be back in a couple in a couple of weeks.”
While his comments sound a little callous after Keller suffered a season-ending injury (in a contract year, no less), and his line about coming back from a concussion shows some ignorance to the plight of players who have been out far longer than a couple weeks with a concussion, this is what defensive players have argued about for years.
In many ways, they are in a no-win situation. They can't go high, for fear of hitting a receiver just wrong in a split-second decision and getting fined. But if they go low, as Swearinger did on Keller, they can also get blamed for a dirty hit if an injury occurs, which happened with Keller.
Jets tight end Kellen Winslow weighed in on the situation:
We saw what happened to Dustin Keller last night and that's a prime example of defenseless receiver. #NFL
— Kellen Winslow Jr. (@KellenWinslowJr) August 18, 2013
Unfortunately for Keller, all that matters to him is he has a long road of rehabilitation ahead just to get healthy enough to coax a team into giving him a contract.