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Tony Gonzalez would rather be hit in the head than the knees

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(USA Today Sports Images)

There's a growing straw poll among NFL players (and especially those who catch the football for a living), and it appears they favor not getting hit in the knees as a rule of thumb.

The latest to chime in is Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, in light of the D.J. Swearinger-Dustin Keller debate raging on in league circles. Gonzalez, entering his final season (right?), says that he personally would rather take a shot to the head than to his knees. (And the roughly 4,500 former players who are involved with concussion lawsuits against the NFL all just cringed at once, as a future Hall of Famer completely undermined them.)

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He told USA Today that there is no place for Swearinger's hit in the game and is mad that the NFL's recent rule changes — aimed at protecting the head — have moved defender's target zones down into another susceptible part of the body.

"That was ridiculous on his part. It should be a fineable offense. That's just not part of football — hitting a defenseless player in his knee, that's something we all dread as players. That's my nightmare,'' Gonzalez said. "Hit me in my head (instead).

"Any player who does that, I don't like it at all. I have no respect for that."

Gonzalez is buddies with Keller, so perhaps he's slightly biased. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have a point. Can't hit high, can't go low — what's a tackler to do these days?

Kellen Winslow joined the tight-end campaign against knee shots a few days ago on Twitter with this:

Followed by this:

It's something that will fall on Roger Goodell's plate at some point, no doubt, and the NFL will have to be very careful with how it talks about these things. If players feel that the league's higher-ups are willing to live with a few broken bones and torn ligaments in order to prevent down-the-road lawsuits related to head injuries, then, well, they'll have a serious problem with the NFLPA, you'd have to think.

The league has gone to lengths to "make the game safer" by implementing rules to protect players from serious head injuries, as mounting evidence collects that a career of hits can lead to a post-career life of serious health problems. But it's little solace when a player's career is cut short — Keller's most definitely is in serious question — or can't walk properly years later.

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