On many of the plays defensive players get fined or suspended for, there's a plausible argument that with receivers coming at them at incredible speed, it's tough to pinpoint the exact spot to legally hit an opponent.
There's no benefit of the doubt for Patriots offensive lineman Marcus Cannon. He performed one of the dirtiest plays in football, the leg whip, and it led to Panthers end Charles Johnson on the ground in pain on Monday night.
Cannon felt bad enough that he apologized to Johnson after the game, which is good for his long-term reputation as a player.
Charles Johnson said Marcus Cannon apologized for the leg whip. Good form by Cannon.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 19, 2013
However, if Cannon isn't suspended or significantly fined, the defensive players are right. There's nobody in the NFL looking out for them.
It was awful to see Cannon go down on the ground after trying to cut block Johnson and kick him in the knee area. Johnson went down in immediate and terrible pain. Luckily, the injury wasn't as bad as it first appeared, and Johnson returned later in the game.
Regrettable things happen in the heat of the game, but the same can be said for some hits on defenseless receivers or quarterbacks that have cost defensive players a lot of money. There is very little that happens on a football field worse than an offensive lineman leg whipping a defensive player, because there's no real excuse for it. The fact that Johnson was lucky enough to escape without a serious injury shouldn't change the punishment.
Cannon might be sorry for what he did, but that doesn't mean the NFL shouldn't make an example out of him and make sure it doesn't happen again.
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