The NFL says it is intent on protecting its players, but in a three-play span the full spectrum of insanity of the league's rules were on display.
First, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, at the end of a23-yard scramble, slide late and was the beneficiary of a horrible call that went against rookie Houston Texans safety D.J. Swearinger. It was clear on replay that Swearinger, at worst, grazed Smith and yet was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
Two plays later, the officials failed to protect Brian Cushing — a defensive player, naturally — the way they protected Smith. Cushing came in on a blitz and was cut below the knees by Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles. After the contact, Cushing ripped his helmet off and was in severe pain.
If you remember, Cushing suffered a season-ending ACL injury last season, and his contract extension this season had language in it tied to the injury. Cushing was carted off the field, and though we don't know the extent of the injury, he clearly was miffed.
It might have been frustration of getting hurt again. There's little doubt that was part of it.
But Cushing also should be mad at the NFL and the way its rules are structured. Smith is barely grazed and his team is gifted a penalty. Already, seven games into his NFL career, Swearinger — who issued several big hits in college and ended Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller's year in the preseason with a hit — already has a reputation.
Charles goes low on Cushing, and nothing happens. No flag, no foul. The Chiefs kicked a field goal and took the lead a few plays later.
There's something wrong with the way that three-play stretch went down.
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