When it happened to Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, the play was illegal only because of where it was. Jets guard Matt Slauson was fined $10,000 for his peel-back block on Cushing last October. Cushing saw his season end because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Since then, the NFL has made that kind of block illegal regardless of where it happens on the field. But as Cushing sees it, that's not enough. Sunday gave him evidence to support that.
At the end of the third quarter, Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Rob Turner made a very similar block on Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. Watt was clearly furious on the field, and remained so after the game. When I asked if that play was dirty, he said, "Absolutely."
"I'm not trying to get my knee blown out," Watt said, before knocking on the wooden podium he stood behind. "That's why there's a rule in place, and it was clearly blatant. You peel back around and you're going towards your own goal line, you know exactly what you're doing and you're going at somebody's knee."
Turner said he tried to talk to Watt.
"As a lineman, you get kind of ingrained, 'Run a screen, throw a cut, run a screen, throw a cut,'" he said. "I tried saying something to him after the game, saying, 'Look, I wasn't trying to take your legs out.'"
Watt wasn't having it.
"I told him," Watt said. "I said, 'You're clearly trying to take out my knee.' He tried to apologize, but you're trying to take out my knee. That's exactly what you're trying to do. ... It's a mutual sign of respect that we have that there's certain things you don't do. And that's one of them."
One official told Cushing that the play reminded him of the play that caused Cushing's injury.
Said Cushing: "There has to be a line drawn and there has to be something done for guys to learn not to do it anymore besides just a fine and a penalty."