Former San Franisco 49ers safety Ronnie Lott appeared on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland on Wednesday and defended the Cleveland Browns safety. Ward had said after Sunday's game that he made a choice to tackle Gronkowski low because there was no other way to get the 265-pound tight end down.
Lott did not disagree.
“Had he hit him in the head he would have been fined,” Lott said in the radio interview. “Had he hit him in the shoulder it would have been a tough collision. It would have been hard for him to bring him down.
“The way we’re taught as a defensive back, when you’re hitting someone that’s bigger than you, you’re gonna cut him, you’re gonna find a way to hit him in the legs.
“Unfortunately in this case it was right on the knee.”
Lott admitted that former and present players might look at the play and wonder how Ward could hit Gronkowski in the knee, but he said he did not believe Ward was trying to hurt Gronkowski, just to tackle him.
“You’re going to cut the guys, and the way you’re going to cut them is you’re going to go low and you’re going to hit them around the knee area or below the knee area,” Lott said, adding: “I think it’s a case of guys knowing that’s the only way to bring big guys down.”
One thing Lott said present-day players can do to avoid such hits is to work on tackling to make sure they are doing it as the rules are written. Lott said he often stayed on the field for an hour after practice ended, working on the right way to tackle.
“You have to work at the art of tacking,” Lott said.
That is something that is not done nowadays in practice, in part because of limits on hitting. Even in training camp few coaches allow players to go full-speed and tackle.
For his part, Ward isn’t discussing the hit anymore. Which is wise.
“I spoke my piece after the game and it is what it is,” Ward said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s the nature of the game.”